Virgin Atlantic is expanding its network of routes across three continents. The airline is set to fly to São Paulo (GRU) in Brazil, marking its first venture into South America. In Asia, Virgin Atlantic will add Bengaluru (BLR) in India as its third destination, make a long-awaited return to Dubai (DXB), and introduce new services to the Maldives. In North America, the carrier plans to resume seasonal flights from Manchester to Las Vegas, start serving the island of Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean, and expand connections from Barbados to other islands. Here’s everything you need to know.
Given India’s significant aviation market, it’s logical for Virgin Atlantic to expand its presence in the country. With a new codeshare agreement with low-cost airline IndiGo and the prospect of high returns, Bangalore is an ideal destination for the airline’s third route in India. Starting from 31st March 2024, Virgin Atlantic will operate daily flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and BLR using its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. The service will be available throughout the year, and tickets will go on sale on 14th June this month.
Virgin Atlantic’s 787-9 aircraft is configured with a total of 258 seats divided into three cabin classes. It has 31 seats in Upper Class (business class) in a 1-1-1 layout, 35 seats in premium economy in a 2-3-2 layout, and 192 seats in economy in a 3-3-3 layout.
Passengers will benefit from convenient one-stop connections to North America, Europe, and soon South America through Virgin Atlantic’s hub at Heathrow and partnerships with airlines like Delta Air Lines. Given Bangalore’s limited connections to the US (only one daily service to San Francisco), connecting flights are attractive for travelers at this technology hub.
Virgin Atlantic plans to operate flights to São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) in Brazil, marking its first destination in South America. The year-round service will commence on 13th May 2024 and will be operated using the reliable 787-9 aircraft. Ticket bookings will open later this year in August.
To increase its presence in South America and provide greater access to destinations across the continent, Virgin Atlantic could leverage its existing codeshare partnership with LATAM, a leading South American carrier that also operates domestically in Brazil. With SkyTeam partner Aerolinas Argentina nearby, there are plenty of options for future routes as well.
The airline’s return to Dubai, a key Middle Eastern hub, is quite intriguing. Virgin Atlantic discontinued its flights to DXB on 31st March 2019. The route was axed in June 2018 due to intense competition, which made it “no longer economically viable.”
Upon its return to Dubai on 28th October initially for the winter season, Virgin Atlantic will operate four weekly flights using the 787-9 aircraft. The carrier aims to capture the leisure travel market and facilitate fast cargo services for importing and exporting goods between the Middle East and major markets in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The route between Dubai and London Heathrow has always been highly competitive and remains one of the busiest international routes worldwide. While UAE flag carrier Emirates dominates the route with six daily flights using Airbus A380-800 aircraft, British Airways also operates two to three daily flights using various widebody aircraft, including the A380 in the past. Royal Brunei Airlines also operates a fifth freedom flight between DXB and LHR, with a smaller frequency of three weekly flights using the airline’s 787-8 Dreamliner.
Interestingly, another airline that operated flights on the DXB-LHR route was the Australian giant Qantas. After announcing a codeshare partnership with Emirates, Qantas switched its Melbourne-Singapore-London route, operated with an A380, to Melbourne-Dubai-London. However, this service later reverted to a stopover in Singapore when Qantas introduced a non-stop Perth-London service.
It will be worth monitoring Virgin Atlantic’s performance on the Dubai-Heathrow route as it re-enters this highly competitive market.
Additional summer seasonal routes include Manchester (MAN) to Las Vegas, which will operate three times a week during the summer of 2024, starting from June 2nd, also utilizing the 787-9 aircraft. Male (MLE), the capital of the Maldives, will be served three times a week between 22nd October 2023, and 31st March 2024, taking advantage of the winter demand for sunny destinations, with flights operated thrice weekly using the Dreamliner.
Virgin Atlantic is also strengthening its presence in the Caribbean by doubling down on its network. The popular tourist destination of Turks and Caicos will now have direct connections with two weekly flights by Virgin Atlantic. The route will connect London Heathrow and Providenciales International Airport (PLS), starting from November 4th, 2023, and operating year-round using the Dreamliner.
Furthermore, the carrier is expanding its route network in the Caribbean region with Bridgetown (BGI), Barbados, serving as a base. Barbados is currently served daily by the A330-300 aircraft. Passengers traveling from Barbados can now conveniently fly onward to Saint Vincent (SVD) and Grenada (GND) with twice-weekly flights starting from 14th June.
Book by: Dec 22nd 2023
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