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

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  • AMcWhirter
    Participant

    [quote quote=1234538]VS already fly MAN-Islamabad.

    THANKS|[/quote]

    Not for long though.

    Virgin Atlantic appears to becoming more London-centric.

    Local media today reports this route will be suspended effective end October.

    Speaking at a press briefing, Liezl Gericke, who is regional head for Virgin Atlantic, announced, “We’re continuing reviewing our network, taking into account aircraft availability and the services which suppirt the greatest customer demand.

    “We’re taking the decision not to operate Manchester-Islamabad this winter but will evaluate opportunities to resume this route in future seasons.”

    One wonders whether this route will indeed resume in 2023.

    I have checked the website and from the end of October Mancunians bound for Islamabad are being offered routings via LHR using BA for the domestic sector.

    Virgin Atlantic doing quite well in Pakistan: Liezl Gericke


    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    I could be mistaken about Seoul. Although from experience overseas media gets excited at the prospect of a new airline serving their nation.

    https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2022/10/129_337140.html


    sparkyflier
    Participant

    Hi Alex

    Re that article you kindly attached, the the premise to why Virgin would fly to ICN is to provide competition to Korean now that it is absorbing Asiana, whereas the point from contributors to this discussion is that VS would go there to collaborate with them.

    For South Korea to have competition it would need to come from new airline Air Premia or BA.

    On the point that BA struggled on this route pre-Covid (since then both short of long haul aircraft and crew, having retired the 747 and firing too many crew), this is no surprise as they were up against airlines with superior products and service. In addition the schedule BA had to ICN was very unattractive – arriving early morning around 7ish I recall.

    IMO these are not ideal as:-

      If on a business trip, you are very jetlagged on arrival, with the body clock late at night on arrival, so hardly rested to perform.
      If using a hotel you can either not check in to a hotel of will have had to pay an extra night.
      Korean and Asiana arrived late afternoon, so therefore more attractive.

    If BA decide to go back they should have better schedules but at least now have a better J product in some of their aircraft.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Hello sparkyflier,

    One route that will return, according to the website, is London-Shanghai.

    A daily service is now listed effective May 1 by B787-9. (Although of course changes are possible)

    However reports on Twitter say that in summer 2023 there will be fewer flights to Orlando from both LHR and MAN.

    Trade press reporting that Tobago will be axed from January.

    This route was subsidised by Tobago. Virgin Atlantic had been underperforming.

    https://www.ttgmedia.com/news/tobago-to-end-virgin-atlantic-airlift-subsidy-in-january-36639


    sparkyflier
    Participant

    Hi Alex

    I am not at all surprised to hear schedules to Orlando are being trimmed and suspect other more leisure routes where the destination is US $ based of pegged to it will also see the same. Many UK travellers planning any holidays will be following the grim rate of GBP .

    Even new route Tampa may be affected (trimmed schedules not cancelled ones). VS can only expand on US routes where the demand is from the US point of sale.

    Which makes me thinks they will have to be a bit more imaginative than just plying the Atlantic and look at destinations where the Pound has more value and of course destinations with good business traffic and VFR traffic (Pakistan routes have been very successful).

    And with reasonably high oil prices the energy markets will surely provide many J travellers.


    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Of course nobody can predict the exchange rates for 2023.

    But maybe today’s announcement by United (see Online news) suggests this airline is hoping more US travellers will visit Europe in 2023.


    dutchyankee
    Participant

    Hey Sparky, I just did the AF Triangular flight CDG-BZV-FIH-CDG in a 772 which will soon change to an A350. The fares on this rout are astronomical, flights are constantly full, and the journey between BZV to FIH is exactly 9 minutes in the air. AF does this for a variety of reasons including accommodation costs are extremely high in Kinshasa so crew stay in Brazzaville and the traffic between the city of Kinshasa to N’djili Airport can take upwards of 2 1/2 to 3 hours so for crew too risky, as is the drive itself. Only two western European airlines serve FIH so the fares will likely remain ridiculously high until some well needed competition comes in. Fingers Crossed.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    sparkyflier
    Participant

    Indeed Alex about airlines expecting rise in demand for European destinations ex US such as United. But I wonder if leisure routes where the main driver is UK demand could be up for trimming – Las Vegas comes to mind.

    And dutchyankee what an interesting flight that must have been. Maybe if you have time you could do a flight review…
    The AF A350 you said is soon due to ply the route looks like it has nice products and in J some seats allow you to be right next to the window, as opposed to having an angled view etc.

    Re that routing I researched it and see there is a daily flight ex-CDG but with some days the routing stops in Brazzaville first and on other days Kinshasa. The other western airline is Brussels Airlines (SN), who route some flights as a triangle stopping in Luanda but on other days there is a Kinshasa only flight – so I guess their crew rest there?

    Out of interest, out of Kinshasa and Brazzzaville what percentage split roughly were the passengers for each destination?

    Other airlines flying to FIH include TK and ET – the latter including a daily 777.

    So yes it seems there is a great deal of demand and it is interesting you think a route from London would be viable and profitable.

    But I cannot see that Virgin would think it “was their kind of route”. Perhaps BA could look at it but they are not interested in Africa any more (IMO), having cut from 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa to only 4 (Kenya, SA, NIgeria and Ghana).

    But if either BA or VS were to fly to Kinshasa as a triangle – what city/cities do you think would be the safest and most lucrative to stop at? In what order what you rank:-

    Douala
    Libreville
    Luanda
    Brazzaville

    BA stopped Luanda a few years ago when the oil price was very low, but now it is high again maybe that could resurface.

    Over many years you and I have long felt that demand between UK and Africa was not tapped sufficiently or smartly. Hopefully VS and BA will re-examine this and identify the substantial tourist, VFR and business traffic that many routes would each provide.

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    dutchyankee
    Participant

    Hey Sparky,
    I have actually done the flight a couple of times now, first time was on an A330 with the much older J product, and most recently on the 772 with the newer J product.
    I look forward to the A350 as that has the latest J product so should be great.
    I have become a bit of a convert to AF these days after being a lifelong BA loyalist.
    First out of need due to destination, but I also have to say, the onboard experience with AF longhaul has been excellent on all flights.
    SN are another option and as I have a home in Antwerp, would make sense, but I prefer AF. The SN crew due overnight in Kinshasa at the Memling Hotel, which is an historic property with Belgian lineage.
    What surprises me most with the AF flight, approximately 80% of the business cabin disembarks in BZV, and then around the same number board for the flight to CDG (stopping in FIH first). In total, there was around 45% of the aircraft in baggage claim in FIH so pretty evenly split, but a higher percentage of J pax bound for BZV. As for a route exit UK to FIH, I would suggest LAD as the best possible stop en-route as BA served it before and is a better location for crew accommodation (still very expensive, but easier traffic and somewhat safer).
    All this said, I don’t think this will happen anytime soon unfortunately. ET flies in daily and also flies to DRC’s second largest city, Lubumbashi (FBM) with 787’s. KQ/TK/SA/AT/MS fly in so there are options, just wish there were more European options which would impact prices.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    SenatorGold
    Participant

    In the 1970s Kinshasa was quite well served by European carriers including Alitalia, Iberia, Lufthansa, Sabena, Swiss and UTA, usually en route to Johannesburg. Pan Am also served Kinshasa en route to Johannesburg. KLM served Brazzaville via Kano and continued on to Johannesburg.

    I’ve long wanted to visit Brazzaville, Kinshasa and Luanda, but I’m not sure how well suited they are to the casual visitor. Perhaps dutchyankee can advise? There used to be an Intercontinental Kinshasa.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Trade press now reports the reductions in flights to Orlando in 2023.

    Besides the reductions from LHR and MAN, there will be no BFS service (to Orlando) while there’s a later start from EDI.

    Surprisingly MAN-ATL is suspended during the months of April and May. I would hope this route resumes as we know some route suspensions never return.

    https://travelweekly.co.uk/news/air/virgin-atlantic-reduces-orlando-services-in-2023-schedule-change

    While the news is not good for MAN it’s brighter for LHR where this increasingly London-centric carrier is adding more flights.

    As I noted above VS confirms a restart date for Shanghai.


    tomyam42
    Participant

    The discussion of travel between Kinshasa and Brazzaville stirred some distant memories for me. In 1969 I arrived in Kinshasa on an Air Congo crate (maybe DC-4) from Nairobi having touched down in Entebbe, Bujumbura, Goma and Kisangani on the way. The food had been catered in Nairobi. It was salad sandwiches. As the day wore on the bread curled slowly upwards. I spent 3 weeks working in Kinshasa, staying in the same hotel as a crew from Laker Airways who had their Caravelle wet leased to the government. Mobutu Sese Seko used it as his personal runabout. They were often required to fly into airfields where the runway was far too short. This did not faze them as they were frequently drunk at breakfast and not required to depart until about 11am.
    I had to depart on UTA from Brazzaville. To get to the airport from Kinshasa we had to take the ferry across the Congo. On reaching the north bank we were met by soldiers who demanded we open our bags on the beach. They then flicked our clothes out of the bags onto the beach using the sharp end of their rifles. Next we repacked our bags and took the bus to the airport for the flight to Paris via Bangui and Fort Lami (N’Djamena) Interesting DC-8 flight with babies in carry cots swinging from hooks in the luggage racks and many accompanied by their pets in the cabin. Absolutely full with French returning to France for their 2 month summer holiday, it was a wonder how we managed to take off from Fort Lami at 4pm. We managed to clear the airport fence by the pilot retracting the undercarriage almost at the end of the runway.
    Those were happy days.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    dutchyankee
    Participant

    Hi SenatorGold, Kinshasa is not exactly a tourist destination, so I would really think twice about visiting. The City has grown unbelievably in population, and poverty is rife throughout. Corruption is also rife and begging, even by uniformed police, customs officials, passport agents is the norm. Chaos is the best way to describe the city. The people are very kind however, and there is a kind of vibe once you get used to the madness. There are three/four main hotels here being The Grand Fleuve (former Kempinski), The Pullman (former InterContinental that opened in 1971), Rotana, and the Hotel Memling. Rates are very high for rather basic accommodation and Restaurant prices are insanely high. A New Hilton Kinshasa is due to open 1st quarter next year. Brazzaville is slightly better mainly because it is far less populated, so walking around is better. Kinshasa is truly not a place to be walking around, I am driven literally everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my time here, but for visiting I would recommend not to do so unless you are very interested in the history of the country and seeing how it has changed.


    SenatorGold
    Participant

    [postquote quote=1236970]

    Hi dutchyankee, many thanks for the strep from Kinshasa and Brazzaville. Based on that, it probably will be a while before I will be visiting. A pity, as both sound quite an experience!

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    cwoodward
    Participant

    Early in this thread I contributed a couple of posts but latterly I have become to suspect that perhaps the airline does not have an assured long- term future.

    Reasoning: Virgin have made significant losses every year since 2017. They made large lossed, entered ‘chapter 11’ and needed to be refinanced. They are now 49% owned by Delta who appear to be the main support structure.
    The route network is an odd and unbalanced one with two thirds of the network to the Americas and an insignificant patchy network otherwise.

    With the four UK routes three of which are largely local feeder routes and nothing else in Europe. Twenty-one routes to the Americas. Four sub-continent routes. Just the one now to greater Asia and one to Israel. Then just the three routes to the whole of Africa. It is arguably more an unconnected patchwork than a considered and logical network

    This odd and arguably fragile, unstable route mix is arguably unsustainable given that the routes to the Americas could very easily be rolled into the Delta network. Its subcontinent routes will certainly come under very considerable pressure from now strong Indian based players particularly Tata’s resurrected Air India. Its African offering is weak and insignificant and its absence from the large and growing Asian market and pull out from Hong Kong bewildering – as is the cancelation of any Australasian presence.
    In my opinion fast and decisive action to quickly increase its network is urgently needed if Virgin is ever going to make money or even survive. Personally, I suspect that Delta will buy out the remaining 51% of the shares and the Virgin brand disappear.

    The above is of course no more than possibly interesting scenario and my conclusions may well be totally incorrect-or not.

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