The airline, founded by serial entrepreneur Richard Branson in 1984, announced plans to operate three daily return flights from London’s Heathrow to Manchester airport in northwest England from March 2013, providing competition to BA’s short-haul service.
Virgin Atlantic claims that BA, part of IAG, operates a monopoly on the Heathrow to Manchester route after its takeover of UK carrier BMI this year.
“The airline believes competition on this route has been neglected in the remedy process and aims to provide choice for the 650,000 passengers who travel between the two cities,” Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said.
The new route will be Virgin’s first move into domestic flights and will feed its long-haul services from Heathrow. It also plans to launch flights between London and Scotland.
Virgin denied the new service was a response to Virgin Rail being stripped of the West Coast Mainline franchise that covers London to Manchester.
Britain’s Department for Transport last week awarded FirstGroup the 13-year franchise for the West Coast line, a decision Branson attacked as “insanity”.
Virgin, which is applying for the 12 Heathrow take-off and landing slots that BA was forced to give up as part of the bmi deal, said it would use some of its existing slots to service the Manchester to London route.
Aer Lingus is also expected to bid for some slots to enable it to offer services between Edinburgh and Heathrow.
Applications for the slots are due by the end of this week.
Commenting on possible link with an Irish airline to take on Irish routes, Virgin said: “We talk to different airlines about many different matters, but we do not comment on these discussions. We are always looking for opportunities to grow our business and most recently announced plans to fly to Moscow representing a move to build a broader network including short and mid-haul flying to feed our long-haul business.”