Feature, Freight News, Air

Virgin publishes Heathrow wish list

[ October 1, 2019   //   ]

Virgin Atlantic says it plans to challenge to IAG’s dominance at London Heathrow and significantly increase its long haul, domestic and European routes when the airport expands.

The carrier says it could deliver a step change in choice for passengers and cargo customers, “but only if the Government reforms the way new Heathrow slots are allocated to enable the creation of a second flag carrier at the airport”.

There would be a fourfold increase in Virgin Atlantic’s current international network including unserved destinations such as Kolkata, Jakarta and Panama City, as well as more services on prime cargo routes such as Accra, Austin, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Osaka, Raleigh Durham and San Diego. In total, Virgin Atlantic would serve 103 domestic, European and long haul destinations, up from 19 long haul destinations in 2020.

The call comes as the Government published its Aviation Strategy Green Paper which aims to allocate additional Heathrow capacity to facilitate effective competition between airlines, improve domestic connectivity and to improve connectivity to international destinations that are currently underserved or unserved. Rules governing the allocation of new slots are currently being reviewed by the Government and Virgin Atlantic warns that they must be allocated in a way that enables the development of a second flag carrier with the necessary scale to compete effectively with IAG.

Virgin Atlantic cargo managing director, Dominic Kennedy, said: “Our volumes grew 6% in 2018 to their highest level since 2010 and we know customers would give us a bigger share of their business if they had the choice. At this pivotal moment for the UK economy, it is vital that our cargo customers as well as manufacturers, importers and exporters have access to the widest choice of routes and services and enjoy all the benefits that fair competition brings. The changes we are calling for will deliver this.”

Virgin says that IAG currently dominates Heathrow, holding more than 55% of all the take-off and landing slots, with no other airline holding more than 5% of the remaining slots. IAG and its joint venture partners operate 77 monopoly routes, it says.