Virgin announces new domestic brand and details of lounges and in-flight service

This month will see the long-awaited launch of Virgin’s domestic service from Manchester to Heathrow, followed by Aberdeen and Edinburgh in April.

The Virgin website now has full details of the facilities and services that passengers will receive when they use the new service.

There is also a new name and a logo – ‘Little Red‘:

Little Red

It was already known that the flights would use Terminal 1 at Heathrow, and would use three Airbus 320 aircraft, leased from Aer Lingus.

Virgin Atlantic

Food and drink

The food and drink offering is here:

We’ll be providing you with the best in British food and snacks onboard your short haul flight.

Flights departing before 9am:

  • Delicious bacon rolls.
  • Hot tea, coffee and juice.

Flights departing after 9am:

  • A selection of tasty cookies or Tyrell’s crisps .
  • Full bar service.
  • Hot tea and coffee.
  • Irn Bru (on Aberdeen and Edinburgh flights only).

To be honest, this is not desperately exciting and will not have BA quaking in its boots.  (BA serves breakfast up to 9.30, by the way, not 9am.)  There is also no provision to order a special meal, which will be unfortunate for non-bacon eaters.  (Although … the website has since changed to read ‘breakfast roll’ and not ‘bacon roll’, so who knows?)

Lounges

The Virgin website says:

We’ve also secured shared lounges at all short haul destinations:

  • MAN – Manchester Airport Authority Lounge
  • EDI – Servisair Lounge
  • ABZ – Servisair Lounge

What is more interesting is what the website does NOT say:

a)  There is no mention of lounge access at Terminal 1 at Heathrow.

b)  You cannot buy a domestic ticket which gets you lounge access.  The ONLY way to get into the lounge is to either have a Virgin Flying Club Gold card or to be connecting to a long-haul flight with an Upper Class seat.

If you have a Priority Pass lounge club card you won’t need to worry as the Servisair lounges are part of that programme.

Luggage

Nothing exciting here.  You get one free checked bag per person and one piece of hand baggage.  The only exception is if you are connecting to a Virgin long-haul flight, where the rules for that flight will apply.

One piece of hand-baggage is not great news for the business traveller, especially if they class a handbag as one piece.

All in all, I am very unimpressed by all of this.  In particular, the failure to offer lounge access to full fare ticket holders seems to be a mistake.

The flight times are also not ideal, with only Edinburgh (6 flights per day) offering a truly competitive schedule.  Three flights a day to and from Manchester and Aberdeen may not be enough.

Let’s see.  I hope to give the Virgin domestic services a try soon and will report back.

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Comments

  1. Alvador says:

    I fly between EDI and London with BA once or twice a month, typically staying in London for a night or two, and I’d been planning to try Virgin’s new service. However the flight times don’t suit me as well as the BA schedule and Virgin’s hand baggage allowance is a big disincentive to flying with them. BA allows two bags in the cabin, one up to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm and max weight 23 kg plus one bag of up to 45cm x 36cm x 20cm. Virgin only allows one bag of up to 56 x 36 x 23 cm and max weight 6 kg.
    EasyJet have no weight limit for hand baggage on their EDI to London flights. Even Ryanair has a free hand baggage weight limit of 10 kg (though they don’t fly this route). I’m not sure why Virgin have such a poor hand baggage allowance compared to their competitors but the result is I’m going to have to continue flying BA (or easyJet) if I want to travel with hand baggage only.

  2. “The flight times are also not ideal, with only Edinburgh (6 flights per day) offering a truly competitive schedule. Three flights a day to and from Manchester and Aberdeen may not be enough.”

    I doubt Virgin would have much say in the slot times they were given. There’s only so many planes you can feed into the system in an hour.

    Virgin’s primary reason for Little Red is to feed it’s longhaul flights. This is the first time they’re venturing into the domestic market and know that it’s not going to be huge money spinner. They make their money on longhaul and are doing this to make sure passengers from the regions opt for Virgin instead of KLM via AMS and other European airlines. Virgin will be happy if it can attract non-transfer passengers on these flights, whist the current timetable doesn’t work for you it may appeal to others.

    The launch of Little Red will be promoted with an ad campaign targeting the regions around Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, focusing on the “sparkle” Virgin Atlantic will be adding to short haul journeys.

    They keep costs down by keeping the product simple – add complexity and the costs will rise. They’ll be keeping a close eye on a number of KPIs as well as the offering so you may well find tweaks and improvements in the coming months.

    • Raffles says:

      Not a lot of ‘sparkle’ in what they’ve announced so far … especially for non-bacon eaters, given the lack of special meals!