Virgin Atlantic joining Skyteam – what “new routes” can you envisage?

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  • sparkyflier

    In the announcement this week that Virgin will at last (IMO) join Skyteam, it was mentioned that there would be “new routes” which would be opened in due course.

    But do BT forum contributors think that these will merely be codeshares, or can you see Virgin metal going to new destinations?

    If so where do you envisage and or desire, which are feasible?

    I suspect the new routes would be from LHR and in discussions on the BT website I do not think routes from Manchester or regions have raised expectations. And of course LHR slots are not easily found.

    But could Gatwick come back to do the more leisure routes and release slots at LHR? Perhaps not with the hanger and lounge having been sold off/given to others to use.

    Or will any new routes only be to US and Delta strongholds?

    Here are some suggestions to get the discussion started:-

      Cancun ( VS already codeshare with Aeromexico into DF I think)

      Panama City

      Brazil (tying in with Delta partner LATAM) to Recife/Fortaleza & Rio? VS and Latam already codeshare on GRU.

      Nairobi again, partnering with KQ and using their hub into eastern/southern Africa. Maybe a switch of slots to enable KQ to have a better timed flight and VS having a day flight out? This schedule could enable North American flights to connect at LHR for NBO etc

      Male/Maldives – there must be demand for more than BA for this premium route.

      Bangkok maybe – as BA have pulled out? But maybe not likely as KL/AF operate this.
      Vietnam in conjunction with Vietnam Airlines?

    Or how about a LHR-BKK-Bali-Denpasar route in conjunction with Garuda- who have given up on long haul flights. This could get both business and premium leisure out of one ex-LHR slot.

    Of course a risk is the global economy/fuel bills/massive loss of value of Pound etc, but the latter point could drive ex-US demand and countries where the currency is pegged to the USD.

    VS have A330, A350, 789 and soon A330neo so planes with a mix of ranges and capacity (and product). Personally for me the A350 and A330 neo are more desirable.

    I look forward to your thoughts, suggestions and …. any insight!

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    Hey Sparky, great to see you starting another thread like this. Having just moved back to my/our favorite continent, I would be keen to see some new routes to Africa, but I think its unlikely given KQ being SkyTeam, but in particular, if I could ‘dream’ some direct flights from London to French Speaking Africa would be a plus for me. Thinking of FIH/BZV, ABJ, DSS or DKR, RUN to name a few. Not sure of the amount of traffic any of these could generate, but given the enormity of the UK Embassy in DRC and amount of UK business coming to DRC, FIH in particular might be of interest, but truly a chaotic airport.

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    Hello sparkyflier – I believe Garuda still maintains its historic link with Amsterdam. Its website is chronic although it lists this Netherlands city as an “international destination.”

    My worry is that VS will concentrate less on developing long-haul routes from the UK regions. Instead it could merely route (using code-shares) Scottish or Mancunian customers with AF/KL through CDG/AMS.

    In other words VS would become London-centric.

    According to one knowledgeable Mancunian VS has said it will not start any additional long-haul routes from MAN in 2023.

    A new MAN-LAX route had been proposed a year or so ago. In 2021 VS said this route would be delayed until 2023. Following the Skyteam news one wonders whether this route will ever launch.

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    Great topic! Some thoughts and ideas:

      -Colombo CMB – Despite current situation – very strong leisure traffic, strong diaspora and business links so doubt they would struggle with filling premium cabin

      -Beirut BEY – similar to their TLV run – now that BA has left the market, there is a good opportunity – huge ex-North America diaspora connect potential – high J-class destination – MEA runs a high load factor on the route and I would guess they could start a 3rd daily if they could get the slot so a VA codeshare options with a Skyteam partner could reap rewards – and MEA could provide onwards connections to a few lesser served options from LHR

      -Phuket HKT/Bali Denpasar DPS triangle (slight alternative to Sparkyflyer suggestion)- Appreciate high leisure route – but very strong ex-UK demand with good feeder options ex-Western Europe with Skyteam partners providing an alternative to the Gulf transfer – Albeit feels better suited to a LGW relaunch

      -Kansas MCI – no competition with a direct Europe link – big GDP output city so potential for good J class who might also feed onto skyteam partner Europe links

      -Seoul ISN/Auckland AKL- Big J uplift ex LHR to Seoul – connect through a city with large Skyteam potential codeshare market – offer only true one-stop UK/NZ service and pick up significant (post pandemic) Korean tourism market into NZ.

    Will be interested to see what actually happens re. new routes vs. better network consolidation! My guess would be a MAN expansion is unlikely unless there was also an uplift of Skyteam partner connections. Also probably an even greater long-shot – but potentially Flybe succeeds and expands – might be their new short haul feeder option.

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    Onajetplane’s suggestions are interesting but none I believe are viable for a full service airline with a high cost base as none could fill premium cabins and without strong premium traffic without which a full service European based airline cannot survive. Most would not even be viable even for a LCA in my opinion.

    Colombo = not viable for many both short and long term reasons

    Beirut = similarly cannot make money at this time (and probably never for a UK full service airline) is very probably why BA vicated it. Perhaps feasible for a LCA but much competition and Virgin is not a LCA

    Phuket = is a purely a leisure destination with with huge entrenched competition and little premium traffic. Triangular routes seldom work these days as any premium pax on holiday want direct flights

    Kansas = will have been looked at by Virgin and BA many times and found not to be viable. Possibly something has changed but I rather doubt it.

    Seoul/ Auckland = this route has deeply entrenched nimble long term players in Air New Zealand and Korean airlines. No chance of success for Virgin particularly with the triangular long thin route suggested. In my view this would be a huge loss maker.

    Their may be a possibility of direct London -Auckland working as ANZ pulled off the route due I believe more to poor management decisions by Air New Zealand rather than the unviability of the route. However this would be a costly startup and need a hugue investment and long term commitment which in my view Virgin would not undertake. Via HKG may work best as there is good premium traffic and a Cathay /ANZ duopoly codeshare arrangement is presently the only option on this route out of HK.

    The immediate above is the only possibility of all of the suggestions but I doubt that Virgin has ether the funding or the guts for it.

    The above are just my opinions and others views would prove I believe to be interesting.


    And probably HYD as well given the huge IT draw


    I imagine if China opens then other routes outside PVG/BJS may open if they actually work with local Sky Team carriers.

    Bali is really high yield leisure at best. Perhaps Jakarta if can partner with GA onto Australia – but GA seems “quiet” at the moment. Not sure really strong enough demand for that area.

    Given prices/yields into Singapore and demand – I’d have thought SIN would be on the agenda. Vietnam at a push if they align with VN is some capacity for onward connections.

    Likewise South America – Sao Paulo and G3 connections (AF/KL connect with Gol) Was on agenda before Covid – maybe they’ll look to pick up again.


    Thank you for your thoughts so far.

    dutchyankee always good to see you here and I wish you success, safety and happiness wherever you happen to have settled now. As you know I do like the analytics of route discussions having started many BA ones over the years, but with their route trimming and being very short staffed there is not much mileage in starting another of those!

    Re your suggestions I suspect most at Virgin would be pretty flummoxed by those 3 letter airport codes and would not even know the actual cities you propose ha ha. The same would apply at BA too me thinks! The last time there was a flight to Kinshasa from London was on British Caledonian back in the 80s using A310 or maybe DC-10! Did not last when BA took over. But With Skyteam VS will be able to add their codes to the extensive AF network in West/Central Africa and to the substantial KL network in East Africa.

    However VS did go to Accra many years ago and I believe it has been looked at again, so maybe it could be restarted and I think a tag to Abidjan or triangle routing would be feasible. AF and KL are all triangle experts so can advise VS!
    And maybe an offering to Entebbe/Kilimanjaro/Dar could work, with KL perhaps trimming their schedule there due to capacity constraints.

    I do think VS could really work well with KQ and add their own flights there and boost NBO as a hub. There is no love lost between KQ and KL these days so KQ might value a new friend in a bigger economy.

    Alex I suspect you might be right re going London centric but if there is demand to places like Barbados and some US markets from MAN or EDI why would VS get rid of that? And maybe routes to India and Pakistan would be viable from Manchester, especially after Covid etc.

    onajetplane – I quite like some of these suggestions, but hesitate on others. Colombo already has Sri Lankan and I think potential tourists would need to know there will be no civil disorder and that might take a while.

    Beirut it is worth bearing in mind that MEA until Covid and of course their awful disasters used A330 which were very busy indeed. This will surely make a good codeshare to begin with and see how that develops. Personally I would love to visit Beirut.

    Phuket I think would work very well – even as a standalone. And it would be well supported by Virgin holidays! People would want to go there who do not want to stop in the Gulf or IST. Also I believe BA did look at this but maybe the runway is not long enough for a flight to Western Europe? I stand to be corrected on this. I know TK and AY fly there but London is a lot further away. May be an issue but if not think a 3x weekly flight would go down well – especially with a weak Pound. Maybe VS should have a less premium heavy fleet but still think there will be some demand for J and Y+.

    Kansas I agree. I read the analytics of this in a BA route discussion pre-Covid and think in the end BA went for Nashville or Pittsburgh but it was on their radar and I think it was close.

    I liked your idea of Seoul and NZ but share the caution of cwoodward, however ICN has Russia overflight issues which for the moment makes it less likely.

    MarkivJ – I agree. Especially BLR and suspect it would be one of the first to be announced. Bear in mind however that both KL and AF already have many flights there.

    TimFitzgeraldTC – I think Garuda is in deep retreat and only going to be doing domestic? They have signed a codeshare agreement with EK to “do” their Europe flights etc. They have been so mismanaged and their strategy and flights to London were riddled with complications and changes no business person would have had he confidence to book with them. Pity as their cabin products looked lovely.

    Singapore yes – there could be demand for another airline there in addition to SQ, BA and QF. No problem filling a 789.
    Re Vietnam they need to work with that airline. Current schedules with VN are not attractive IMO so maybe they could teak/swap slots. At least a codeshare to begin with.

    Re GRU they already codeshare with Latam but wonder if collaborating with them and flying into other cities – perhaps one of the northern ones could be good for business both ways, tourism and huge Brazilian diaspora in UK.

    I suspect we will not hear announcements for a while, at least until a joining date for Skyteam is confirmed.

    Will be very interesting. With this will mean BA has a UK based rival with potentially a very extensive global network which will have a VS code.

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    [quote quote=1234106]Alex I suspect you might be right re going London centric but if there is demand to places like Barbados and some US markets from MAN or EDI why would VS get rid of that? And maybe routes to India and Pakistan would be viable from Manchester, especially after Covid etc.[/quote]

    Yes I would agree. I was thinking in terms of VS continuing to operate one or two major routes only from MAN … like JFK. EDI is too seasonal for a year round service and I would have thought that it’s one route DL would operate (seeing as there are many US visitors to Scotland during the summer months).

    [quote quote=1234106]TimFitzgeraldTC – I think Garuda is in deep retreat and only going to be doing domestic? They have signed a codeshare agreement with EK to “do” their Europe flights etc. They have been so mismanaged and their strategy and flights to London were riddled with complications and changes no business person would have had he confidence to book with them. Pity as their cabin products looked lovely.[/quote]

    Garuda is a chaotic airline and right now its website must be one of the world’s worst. The website continues to list a number of international destinations (but I was unable to check Amsterdam status). Given the historical links I would have thought the latter route would survive.


    << MarkivJ – I agree. Especially BLR and suspect it would be one of the first to be announced. Bear in mind however that both KL and AF already have many flights there.>>

    Thanks Sparkyflier.

    Even though India is a low yield market, no doubt it provides a lot of traffic to the UK and the EU/UK carriers provide feeder traffic to the US. You’re right – both AF and KL fly daily 772s/77Ws to BLR but the demand is still unmet.

    Pre-pandemic, BA had filed for 4 additional weekly flights (taking total to 11 weekly). I’m sure VS – rather DL doesn’t want to miss out on this opportunity.

    I’m also curious if VS would increase flights to Mumbai (they’re already double-daily to Delhi). I think BA is flying 3x daily to Mumbai in 2023 summer season. And skyteam partner Jet Airways was 3x LHR-BOM and 2x LHR-DEL, so some scope there.

    In the USA:
    * Wonder if DL will transfer the seasonal Portland – LHR service to VS and make it year round?
    * DL gives up its daily SEA-LHR so VS can go double-daily?
    * Increase freq on LAX to 4x
    * Increase Austin to daily
    * Increase presence in ATL, DL’s biggest hub. It always surprises me that VS has only a daily each from MAN and LHR and nothing else
    * Resume EWR???
    * I don’t see them starting any new destination, but then again they’re starting Tampa so you never know! They may surprise us with an unexpected route like Charleston, Indianapolis, etc.?!

    * Resume YVR? Both AF and KL have huge loads. Helps that a lot of airlines that had started flying to Calgary don’t anymore…so YVR’s catchment area just increased (in addition to the regular B.C and cruise-Alaska crowd)

    * Accra
    * Additional freq to JNB and CPT
    * Nairobi
    * Resume mauritius and start seychelles

    Asia: (other than India):
    * SIN has high yields but like DXB, they’ll be killed by the existing competition
    * Japan perhaps?
    * S Korea / Seoul

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    Fascinating to read people’s thoughts on possible African routes, particularly Accra. BA is currently operating a daily A350 to Accra which is almost always full in all classes. As a Ghana resident, I would certainly welcome some competition on that route to keep costs down (as it stands, many people still use KLM via Schipol to get to London as it is often much cheaper). Maybe a London-Accra-Jo’burg/Cape Town route? Or, slightly more innovative – London-Accra-Kigali?

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    As I mentioned upthread triangular stopping flight routings according to the industry are not likely these days by premium pax and without a good loading a full service high cost base airline as Virgin is cannot make money There are a few exceptions but I doubt that SA via Accra is one. Virgin are seldom cheap but London-Accra could perhaps attract premium pax perhaps 3 times a week.

    Casablanca has grown into a hub in West Africa has become something of a One World stronghold in the past couple of years and London to Casablanca in competition to could be worth considering 2 or 3 times a week as I believe that there would be some premium traffic in the route.

    Alex, Garuda is again flying to 8 (or perhaps more) destinations in Asia (HKG twice daily) 3 in Australia also to Saudi and I believe to Amsterdam from 20th October

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    VS was planning to fly to GRU pre-COVID. The route was launched and the flights went on sale. But as the route was due to start in April 2020, it obviously never happened. As a regular on the route to Sao Paulo, I would very nice to have another non-stop option. My next two trips this year are with IB and AF, as the non-stops were too expensive.


    [postquote quote=1234135]

    Sorry MarkivJ, My mistake I clicked the wrong button.

    [quote quote=1234139]Asia: (other than India):
    * SIN has high yields but like DXB, they’ll be killed by the existing competition
    * Japan perhaps?
    * S Korea / Seoul[/quote]

    I wanted to add that the problem with Japan and S Korea is the Russian overflying ban.

    This has made the above routes (not Singapore) more expensive to operate from Europe as flights take maybe three or fours longer (depending on weather conditions and so on).

    You have probably read the pieces I have already written on the routings.

    Flights from the UK tend to fly to NE Asia using a southerly route over Kazakhstan and then across mainland China.

    But when bound to Europe they tend to take the northerly route over Alaska.


    Apologies. My posting above has become mixed up !

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