Virgin to withdraw Heathrow-Kenya blaming APD

Virgin Atlantic will withdraw services from Heathrow to Nairobi in September, blaming the rising costs of fuel, Air Passenger Duty (APD) and the “challenging economic environment”.

Airline president Sir Richard Branson called on the government to be “more realistic” about the level of APD.

The carrier will replace the route to Kenya with a resumption of flights to Mumbai and an additional service to New York. Virgin Atlantic launched to Nairobi in 2007.

Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer Julie Southern said: “The high price of fuel, increasing UK aviation taxes and insufficient passenger numbers throughout the past five years contributed to the decision.

“These are challenging times for the airline industry and we have to deploy our aircraft to routes with the right level of demand.”

Virgin pointed out fuel costs have risen more than 50% and the APD rate has doubled since it launched the service.

Branson said: “Virgin Atlantic is extremely sad to be withdrawing from Kenya.

“A combination of record fuel prices, higher taxes and a poorly timed slot which did not provide connections from London made it uneconomical to fly from Nairobi.

“Governments must be more realistic about the aviation taxes they impose and urgently need to increase capacity at Heathrow.”

Branson said: “Operating more viable transatlantic capacity allows us to provide better connections to our services to Africa and Asia.”

However, he added: “Virgin remains committed to the future of Kenya. I love the country and its people. We hope to return.”

The last flights will operate from Heathrow on September 23 and from Nairobi on September 24.

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