Shai Weiss, the CEO of Virgin Atlantic, gave the key note speech at the Airlines 22 conference in London on Monday which I attended.
Much of the day was spent on discussions which are not core HfP material – primarily over sustainable aviation fuel and regular kickings for Heathrow. Heathrow’s CEO will have taken note as he was also a speaker!
What is worth covering here is what Shai Weiss had to say about Virgin Atlantic’s position from the UK regions.
The bottom line is that, following the closure of the Gatwick operation, Virgin Atlantic is focusing on routes where it can benefit from connecting traffic, either from another Virgin Atlantic flight or a partner. This means, effectively, Heathrow.
Shai said that only 10% of passengers at Gatwick had been transferring to or from another flight. Moving all London departures to Heathrow had led to substantial improvements in efficiency and sharply lower costs.
What about Virgin Atlantic flights outside London?
Manchester is safe. It has a catchment area of 20 million people and point-to-point traffic can still work.
The good news is that Virgin Atlantic is planning, in time, to get its Manchester operation back up to its pre-pandemic level. (The Clubhouse lounge at Manchester had been pushed back to 2024 last time I asked about it – the space is already sitting there ready for fitting out.) The bad news is that it is unlikely to grow beyond this.
The news is worse for other cities where Virgin Atlantic has run flights in the past, such as Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Whilst Shai sees value in running Summer services to, mainly, Orlando, there doesn’t seem to be the ambition to do more.
A key point he made – which is difficult to argue with – is that the transatlantic partnership with Air France and KLM already gives the Virgin / Delta / Air France / KLM JV unrivalled regional reach.
Last time I counted, KLM flew from 16 other UK airports apart from Heathrow, from Inverness to Bristol, all of which are included in the transatlantic JV if you are heading eastwards.
If you book a KLM flight from Humberside to Amsterdam to New York, this is (from an economic point of view) a Virgin Atlantic flight, and Virgin gets roughly the same % of your money as it would on a direct Virgin Atlantic flight to New York. You will also earn Virgin Flying Club tier points and Virgin Points.
Shai was also keen to stress his willingness to explore new connectivity options. This isn’t hugely practical at Heathrow – there are few domestic flights into the airport apart from those operated by British Airways, and none use Virgin’s Terminal 3 as it cannot process domestic arrivals.
I’d see this as more of an option for Manchester, especially if the ‘new’ Flybe succeeds. Virgin Atlantic was, of course, part of the consortium that tried to rescue the ‘original’ Flybe, in part to provide feed to its regional flights.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (January 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):
You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.
Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.
(Want to earn more Virgin Points? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)