Belfast among 84 new Virgin Atlantic destinations when Heathrow gets third runway

Belfast among 84 new Virgin Atlantic destinations when Heathrow gets third runway

Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to fly to 84 new destinations from Heathrow after a third runway is opened.

The airline said the transformation of its route network depends on how many additional take-of and landing slots it obtains when the UK’s busiest airport is expanded.

Chief executive Shai Weiss claimed the west London hub has been dominated by British Airways’ parent company IAG “for far too long”.

Twelve of the 84 new destinations Virgin Atlantic plans to serve from Heathrow are in the UK or Channel Islands.

They are Aberdeen, Belfast City, Edinburgh, Exeter, Guernsey, Glasgow, Inverness, Liverpool, Jersey, Manchester, Newcastle and Newquay.

Change the status quo and create a second flag carrier

Virgin Atlantic’s planned 35 new long-haul routes include airports in North and South America, Asia and Africa.

A recent report commissioned by the airline found that IAG holds 55% of Heathrow slots.

Virgin Atlantic intends to compete on 26 routes where it says IAG has a monopoly.

The rules governing the allocation of new airport slots are currently being reviewed by the Department for Transport.

Virgin Atlantic axed its domestic airline, Little Red, in September 2015 and blamed a scarcity of available slots at Heathrow as one of the reasons for its failure.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh told an airport conference in November 2016 that there is “zero chance” the airline group will restore flights to UK airports such as Liverpool and Newquay, even if more slots become available.

“We’ll go where there’s demand,” he added.

Mr Weiss said: “Never has the need for effective competition and choice at Heathrow Airport been more evident than during this summer of disruption, which has brought misery for tens thousands of travellers. Britain, and those who travel to it, deserve better than this.

“Air passengers need a choice and Virgin Atlantic is ready to deliver when Heathrow expands.

“Heathrow has been dominated by one airline group for far too long.

“The third runway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the status quo and create a second flag carrier.

“This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers, as well giving Britain a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world.

“Changing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated for this unique and vital increase in capacity at the nation’s hub airport will create the right conditions for competition and innovation to thrive.”

A group of councils, residents, environmental charities and London Mayor Sadiq Khan lost a High Court challenge against the Government’s decision to approve the plans for the third runway in May. But in July they were given the go-ahead to challenge the ruling.

Construction could begin in 2021 and the new runway could be opened by 2026.

- Press Association

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