Huge pent-up demand for international travel is minimising the impact on bookings from rises in the cost of living, according to Virgin Atlantic.
Chief executive Shai Weiss said the airline is experiencing an “unusual situation” as passenger numbers increase following the end of coronavirus restrictions despite spikes in household bills.
He told reporters at a press conference in central London that there is “tremendous pressure in the cost of living in the United Kingdom”.
There is so much pent-up demand for families and businesses to get togetherShai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic
He went on: “Pressures on discretionary spend have an impact in the long run on demand for travel.
“But what we’re seeing right now is an unusual situation where there is so much pent-up demand for families and businesses to get together.”
He continued: “It does not seem to have a dampening effect. I’m not saying we’re immune … but for now we don’t see it.”
Mr Weiss was speaking alongside Ed Bastian, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic’s partner carrier, Delta Air Lines, which is based in the US city of Atlanta.
Mr Bastian reported that his airline experienced its busiest ever booking day on Tuesday March 8.
“The US consumer is in a healthy position,” he said.
“Yes, there’s a lot of inflation, fuel prices now are near record levels in the US.
“But the US consumer has been saving and has built a considerable nest egg over the pandemic.”
He added that the airline “hasn’t seen any down tick” on demand for travel from the US to Europe despite the war in Ukraine.
We would like to think there is an opportunity for Gatwick, but it's not this yearShai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic
Mr Weiss revealed that Virgin Atlantic is not planning to return to Gatwick Airport this year after consolidating its London operations at Heathrow due to the virus crisis.
He said Heathrow is “where our business hub is, this is where we connect with other carriers, this is where people want to fly”.
“Traditionally we’ve flown leisure routes out of Gatwick and we have slots at Gatwick” he said.
“We would like to think there is an opportunity for Gatwick, but it’s not this year.”