A planned daily Moscow service heralds a move by Virgin Atlantic into short and mid-haul routes from the UK.

The airline plans to serve the Russian capital on a former Bmi route from Heathrow in 2013 operating a new three-class Airbus A330.

But the launch will be predicated on Virgin winning Heathrow take off and landing slots that British Airways was forced to surrender following its purchase of BMI earlier this year.

Virgin Atlantic will fight to take up the 12 daily slot pairs so that it can provide renewed competition and feed its long haul network.

Flying to Russia reflects a strategy of mixing emerging economies with its more established destinations.

For example, its Heathrow to Mumbai route launch in October will also connect the Indian commercial centre with New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami and Washington via London.

Chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “Given the increased consolidation in the market and challenging economic environment, we need to develop our network proposition and ability to sell more connecting journeys.

“Winning the BMI remedy slots will help us add connectivity to serve a huge number of travellers who have lost choice and the benefits of competition through the BA takeover.”

He added: “This route is now open for another UK airline following BA’s takeover of BMI and we are making preparations to take up these rights early next year.

“Linking these two cities will be an important part of our strategy to run short haul flights into Heathrow thus feeding our long haul network.  It will also radically improve competition on the route giving business and leisure travellers much better choice.

“Our core flying has always been across the Atlantic but we have been clear that we will also continue to grow our routes to emerging markets if given the slots at London Heathrow.

“Moscow would be our third BRIC country and we think it is imperative for British trade that we are operating in these economies.”

Traffic between London and Moscow has trebled in ten years and demand on the route continues to grow, Virgin says.