Virgin wins key Heathrow slots
British airline Virgin Atlantic is poised to begin new services from London's Heathrow Airport.
Virgin said it had been offered short-haul take-off and landing slots available following the takeover of BMI by British Airways’s parent company IAG.
Aer Lingus was told by the European Commission last week that it has been ranked second in its application for the six daily slot pairs offered on the Heathrow to Edinburgh route.
Virgin plans to begin services on March 31st next year and will primarily focus on multiple daily flights between Heathrow and Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
The new routes, on which Virgin will compete with long-time rival British Airways, will complement the new Heathrow-Manchester route the airline is also introducing next year.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “We have fought hard for the right to fly short haul and take a strong challenge to BA within these shores.
“For 28 years both airlines have battled for customers all over the world and it has meant that British consumers have ultimately had some of the world’s best flying and lowest fares.”
Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said: “We’re focused on providing Scotland with choice both in terms of routes and carriers whilst extending its reach across the world.
“This new regular service does exactly that, giving choice to Heathrow and opening up a new set of onward destinations for our passengers.
“We look forward to working with Steve Ridgway and his team over the coming months.”
Scotland’s transport minister Keith Brown said it was a welcome announcement for both passengers and the air industry.
Mr Brown said: “We look forward to a long and productive relationship with Virgin Atlantic and the exciting connections they can offer with all the benefits that will bring for passengers, Scotland’s aviation industry and the wider Scottish economy.
“The detail will be worked out over the next couple of weeks but we are pleased that the European Commission has taken note of the need for both Edinburgh and Aberdeen to be served and that Virgin Atlantic will now be able to operate from two of Scotland’s most important cities.”
The minister said he remained concerned about the lack of competition on the Glasgow to Heathrow service as a consequence of Bmi’s withdrawal of the service last year.
Glasgow was not part of the remedies package considered by the European Commission.
Aer Lingus already has 23 daily slot pairs at Heathrow. It currently flies to Heathrow from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast.
In March the European Commission cleared IAG’s takeover of BMI on condition that it would release 14 daily slot pairs at Heathrow to other airlines.