11 December, 2012

Virgin & BA to Clash Over Scotland


A Virgin Atlantic plane landing at Heathrow 

Virgin plans to compete with British Airways on Heathrow links with Scotland.  It is to fly six round trips between the London airport and Edinburgh, with three round trips linking it with Aberdeen.

The airline says 150 people will be employed as a result of the move.  Virgin Atlantic will take over landing slots from BMI, after it was bought by British Airways owner, IAG.

From 31 March 2013, the planes are to be operated by Aer Lingus, but will be in Virgin Atlantic livery.

Scheduling is intended to appeal to business travellers wishing to spend a day working in either capital city, with departures from 06.40, as well as linking to international flights in to and out of Heathrow.

Having already committed to fly Heathrow to Manchester, this is the start of short-haul flights for Virgin Atlantic.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

We are still concerned about the absence of competition on the Glasgow-Heathrow route”

End Quote Nicola Sturgeon Deputy First Minister

It has seen the opportunity to compete with its long-time British Airways rival, after regulators required it to give up slots to ensure competition is retained on Heathrow's links to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

As BMI had given up its Glasgow-Heathrow route, regulators did not insist on competition on that route. However, an assessment by the European Commission found there has been a significant increase in British Airways fares on the Glasgow route since BMI withdrew early in 2011.

Steve Ridgeway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said British Airways' monopoly on the Heathrow links is causing "serious consumer harm" which his company intends to challenge.

"Virgin Atlantic will offer millions of passengers in Scotland and Manchester connections around the world through our and our partners' long-haul network, with the additional benefit of providing direct services to and from London Heathrow," he said.

"This is a robust business model that will protect competition to and from Heathrow for the long-term."

Scotland's Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, welcomed the Virgin Atlantic plans, adding: "We are still concerned about the absence of competition on the Glasgow-Heathrow route, and will continue to promote its re-introduction, as well as our desire for better direct international connectivity.

"We also reiterate once again our calls for Air Passenger Duty to be devolved as quickly as possible to provide the means to incentivise new direct international services from Scotland."

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: "These services operating from Edinburgh and Aberdeen will provide direct links to and from London Heathrow, as well seamlessly linking into Virgin's long-haul network creating new links between Scotland and the rest of the world.

"Together, this will only benefit Scotland's business and leisure travellers."