Belfast Telegraph

Virgin proposing route to Belfast from Heathrow

Virgin's intention to add Belfast City is a boost to the airport after Aer Lingus last week announced it was cutting some of its routes
Virgin's intention to add Belfast City is a boost to the airport after Aer Lingus last week announced it was cutting some of its routes

By Neil Lancefield

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

The airline said the transformation of its route network depends on how many additional take-off 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. Its intention to add Belfast City is a boost to the airport after Aer Lingus last week announced it was cutting some of its routes.

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.

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

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.

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.

"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 as 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."

Belfast Telegraph

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