Virgin Atlantic launches limited Belfast and Glasgow routes

For reasons not entirely clear, Virgin Atlantic will experiment next Summer with a very restricted service from Belfast and Glasgow.

From Belfast, Virgin will be flying to Orlando.  It will fly a grand total of six times – Thursday 25 June and then every Thursday in July!

On the off chance that this timetable suits your holiday plans, you will find yourself on a 3-class Boeing 747.  There are only 16 Upper Class seats so the chances of more than a couple being available for redemptions is not great.  One upside if you can find a seat is the lower (ie £0) APD rate in Northern Ireland.

The second route is even odder.

Virgin Atlantic

A Glasgow to Las Vegas service will launch on September 10th 2015.  It will fly a grand total of eight times, ending in October, using the same 747.

Again, it will only be a weekly service departing on a Thursday.  I’m not sure I have ever met anyone who went to Las Vegas for an entire week, but you could build in some sightseeing around it.

To add to the oddness of these routes, remember that Virgin Little Red does not fly to Belfast or Glasgow – only to Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Manchester.  This means that there is not even a convenient ‘all Virgin’ option if you don’t want to stay away a full week and end up flying home via Heathrow instead.

As I said, all very strange!  This feels like a throwback to the ‘old Virgin’ before Delta took its 49% stake and started making some rational decisions such as ditching Sydney.

Full details can be found on the Virgin Atlantic website here.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles? Click here to see recent articles on Virgin Atlantic, Little Red and Flying Club, and click here for the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

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Comments

  1. Not sure why you think it’s strange that a city of 1.2 million people gets its own summer scheduled service to one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, without having to spend 3-4 hours flying south to another country only to fly directly back north again.

    Can connect on Delta services to other US cities too.

    • Because there are only a handful of flights – nowhere near enough to get up a ‘head of steam’ for the route – and the plane and crew will be London based, almost certainly. The first inbound flight and the last outbound flight will presumably be very empty!

  2. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    BFS-MCO doesn’t strike me as a route overflowing with business traffic or high-budget leisure travellers. I would have thought that redemptions would be their best chance to shift seats in Upper.

  3. As a travel agent in the North East of Scotland I would agree it would be nice to connect GLA with ABZ or EDI but the amount of people who go to Vegas for at least a week is actually very high! And since my customers are generally willing to drive to Glasgow for better flights (more direct or less money) I’m happy to see how it all pans out. Loads of people surprisingly don’t like connecting in Heathrow although I’ve never had a problem with it!

    • Do you think there’s demand for GLA-MCO in the winter?

      Or even ABZ-MCO????

  4. James67 says:

    I expect the Vegas flight will be geared towards Virgin Holidays that will be heavily promoted by local travel agents.The other new flight announced this week was EDI-AUH daily by Etihad. Should be available for AA remption and hopefully keep prices exEDI competitive.

  5. Volker says:

    Raffles, from time to time you write about one airline buying slots from another one for millions of pounds. How does it work here? Do the airports in Belfast and Glasgow just squeeze in a few extra flight ops and charge Virgin accordingly or does another airline have to give up anything (temporarily)?

    • That’s only really a problem at airports like Heathrow which are full. Neither Glasgow nor Belfast International are anywhere near capacity so there’s n need for anyone to pull out.

  6. Mark B says:

    Virgin also announced this week a new route London to Atlanta from October

  7. We go to Vegas for an average 10 nights at a time, 3 times a year.
    Already have 2 Upper seats booked to go to LAS via SFO in October thanks to Tesco

  8. Richie says:

    This news should get some happy posts from the people who live up there, and then they will obviously complain about having to make a connection in London when these routes inevitably don’t work.
    I honestly can’t see these working. I think flights to dubai or qatar are a good idea from the northern airports, as these airlines have a route network to support .
    Virgin would have been better trying a daily flight to a big us hub. Then delta could make the connections

    • sigma421 says:

      They will work. These are basically charter flights for Virgin Holidays. Any additional seats they happen to sell ‘flight only’ are just a bonus. Virgin have been flying GLA-MCO on a similar basis (and shuttling their crews up and down on BA!) for some time.

      • Chris1922 says:

        Exactly. Not sure why you think this is odd Raffles, it’s nothing new. Virgin have long flown to Orlando from GLA, during the Scottish school hoiday period. Vegas is just another holiday destination, and avoids having to change, either in London or US.

        • Although VS like to give the impression of a premium airline their check-in area at GLA is that cheap looking hut called T2 intended for low cost carriers, whereas easyjet had the sense to use the main terminal.

          I know GLA-MCO has been going (seasonal) for some time, so good luck with the new routes.

          BA’s EDI-IBZ was a failure and is coming to an end soon, so book it now if you want to give it a go!

  9. Gordon says:

    Maybe they plan little red to belfast and glasgow at sime point?

  10. Off Topic says:

    Random question – if I could save 4.50 on delivery and walk to the shop is that better than paying 4.50 and getting 100 virgin miles thrown in? which would you opt for?

  11. I don’t know about the Glasgow route. But for the bfs route, I expect that virgin has seen significant Northern Ireland flyers this year to Orlando . They have obviously done their sums and decided they can make money over all from that demographic by flying directly. VA can take the APD charge, put it into the base fare, and the flyer will see no difference. They can if they want add an amount to reflect that people currently have to connect into MAN/LON (on non virgin flights).

    It’s the zero APD that has made this workable for Virgin.

    • FormalHall says:

      It might be a way of making a point to HMRC; even with a connecting domestic ticket (presumably on air lingus, keeping in mind little red is air lingus in disguise) the cost will be less than the APD.

  12. pazza2000 says:

    Bizzare service, although I can vouch that the Scots as a whole tend to be very anti LHR and many do happily spend a week in LAS.

  13. poincianakings says:

    I love this site but sometimes, not surprisingly, the post are a bit too business/frequent flyer centric.

    These flights are primarily being run for the benefit of Virgin Holidays rather than any frequent flyers. VH (and other tour operators) will have guaranteed to VS that they will block purchase a large number of seats. The remaining seats (which I bet is small in number) will be sold via VS. VS are following a tried and tested strategy as they used this same procedure when they first started flying GLA-MCO, you start with a number of tester flights (with guaranteed block bookings) over a popular period (in this case the summer holidays for BFS and autumn for LAS). If the demand is there the following year you increase the number of flights available. Eventually the airline has established itself in the market well enough that it does not necessarily need to rely on the tour operators to block book seats. That is the theory anyway.

    Best example of this strategy is GLA-MCO which started using this strategy and is now 2 flights per week for a considerable length of time. I can’t remember back to the start of the MAN-MCO flights but I bet it was a similar strategy in the early 90s as well.

    The BFS route will be interesting to watch- the EI route out of DUB to MCO is often populated with a lot of passengers from Northern Ireland who travel down to DUB rather than backtrack to the UK mainland to get to MCO. I would imagine that VH/VS have one eye on taking passengers off EI. It is also worth noting that carriers have done well at BFS in the past, in particular Travel City (which is now VH) and TCX still operate.

    • Interesting background, thank you. I can’t help thinking that Virgin should be doing something higher yielding with the aircraft though.

      Add in the positioning flight from presumably Heathrow ( not sold ) and the plane is tied up for probably 40 hours. You could do two New York to London returns in that time.

      • Deenesh says:

        I would argue that these flights bring in a decent profit to passenger ratio. The prices of these flights if you dont book well in advance via virgin holidays is very high as I have found out myself. Often £800 and over return. Last year I tried to book these flights on the day Virgin released them via VS (so nearly a year before hand) and prices were £1200 return. From what I hear from collegues in Glasgow airport these flights are also invariably full. I’d argue they make more profit on one of these flights than a flight on the same day to New York. If anyone has numbers it would be great to compare. I’d of course retract the claim if I was proved wrong 😉

      • poincianakings says:

        The positioning flight will be from LGW, as I believe by then the majority of 744’s will be LGW based following the arrival of the 789.

        I don’t have the time to work out the schedule for the MCO flights but for the BFS flights I would imagine that an aircraft swap will be done at MCO (as it could be for GLA-LAS as well). This is currently what happens for the MAN and GLA flights at MCO. E.g.: aircraft flies what is called a ‘W Route’- LGW-MCO-GLA-MCO-LGW. They will probably need to do an empty positioning flight for the first service though. However, empty positioning flights are no different to what the majority of charter carriers do and lets not forget that BA has been known in the past to do them as well.

        As others have said, VS (and also DL because I would imagine they are influencing a lot of decisions) will have done the maths- clearly this will be a good use of aircraft. The airline are in this to make a profit, if money could be made easier elsewhere they would do.

  14. Deenesh says:

    As has been said, I dont see why you are slating this so much. I’m personally using on of the GLA/MCO flights since Glasgow is my closest option for this direct flight and even Glasgow is 300 miles from me as I live in Orkney. It saves me trecking to London (or Manchester etc) for direct flights which adds hundreds of pounds to my holiday bills. And I’m one of the people who you seem to think are crazy and went to Las Vegas for over a week. There is far more to do than the casinos and I also took a week out in Arizona seeing the Grand Canyon etc. This seems like the normal ‘anything away from London is pointless and nobody will use it’ mentality that so many people have.

    • I am not slating it a lot! I just find it an odd use of a $150m aircraft esp for a very short season.

      • Deenesh says:

        But if they cut one service from say NYC to do this route and it is full, and that one ‘missing’ flight passengers can br shared between the NYC flights left then surely you are making better use of the aircraft. There are so many New York flights per day that there are always plenty of spare seats left on any given flight (usually). If VS can condense, say, 5 flights into 4 to spare up a 747 to do a holiday run they know will be full and people pay more for then to me that is good business sense. While i enjoy this site and love the articles i think the point raised above is valid it is sometimes too redemption orientated. Some of us ‘normal’ people use cash tickets in Economy to go on holiday with and add to our miles account and these flights help us for both. I still stand by my claim that these MCO flights will make more money than a comparable NYC such flight (for the same day of the week and time of day).

        • Frankie McPolin says:

          Deenesh, the clue’s in the name of the website.

          • Deenesh says:

            Well done. But I’d say thats a massive generalisation which would remove half the posts written. No hotel reviews, no heads-ups on offers for cash prices etc. The site would soon die if the posts ONLY referred to points earning opportunities.