Yes I suspect that EK is tapping those Mancunians travelling long-haul at that time of day.
Maybe there’s been a change of cabin crew rosters. I believe originally that Aer Lingus were to provide the pilots and cabin staff in addition to the planes.
Even if all passengers were transferring to long-haul flights at LHR (and remember that Little Red was going to strike interline deals with carriers other its Virgin Atlantic parent) that hardly represents healthy traffic.
It seems there’s been little improvement since we ran this news piece last month:
Maybe Little Red is now faring better on the Edinburgh and Aberdeen routes.