Virgin to ‘re-inject competition’ with Scotland flights confirmation

Plans to fly multiple daily flights between Heathrow and Scotland have been confirmed by Virgin Atlantic.

The airline wants to start services from Edinburgh and Aberdeen in addition to a planned three times a day domestic connection from Manchester to the London hub.

Virgin Atlantic has submitted an application to operate 12 daily slot-pairs at Heathrow which British Airways’ parent International Airlines group is required to surrender following its takeover of BMI earlier this year.

The deal left BA as the sole carrier on the two Scottish routes to Heathrow, a monopoly Virgin hopes to break by running flights to Edinburgh and Aberdeen using Airbus narrow body aircraft from March 2013.

Virgin claims BA is cutting the total number of daily flights between Aberdeen and Heathrow by nearly one third, and by a quarter between Edinburgh and Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic believes it can “re-inject competition” for passengers, 750,000 of whom connect onwards at Heathrow each year. Popular onward destinations for Scottish passengers include New York, Vancouver, Sydney and Mumbai.

A decision on Virgin Atlantic’s bid for the ex-BMI routes is expected from the European Commission by the end of the year.

The announcement came as Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway visited Edinburgh to meet First Minister Alex Salmond and other political party leaders to outline the airline’s plans for extending its Scottish operation.

Ridgway said: “Virgin Atlantic is totally committed to providing a competitive price and choice for passengers flying from Scotland to Heathrow and beyond.

“At least 1.8 million Scottish passengers, equivalent to a third of the population, have been left without a choice on these routes since IAG’s takeover of BMI. As a monopoly operator, BA has the opportunity, the incentive and the means to increase fares and reduce the number of flights available.

“As we shook up the status-quo in long-haul travel nearly 30 years ago, we’re now doing all we can to have the same decisive impact on the short haul market.

“Our aim is to reach a significant new base of both direct and connecting passengers, and in doing so we intend to bring our award-winning service, competitive prices and greater choice to the Scottish travelling public.”

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