Speculation is mounting that Virgin Atlantic will wet lease A320 aircraft from Lithuanian operator Avion Express, to serve its short-haul routes from Heathrow to Manchester and Scotland.
An eagled-eyed reader pointed out that the charter carrier and aircraft lessor is currently advertising for pilots and cabin crew positions “for scheduled operations based in London Heathrow, starting on [sic] March 2013”.
Avion Express leases A319 and A320 aircraft to carriers including Icelandic low-cost carrier Wow Air, and an unverified post on its Wikipedia page states:
“The airline is widely expected to be operating Virgin Atlantic's domestic flights from London Heathrow to Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh for the 2013 season.”
This week Virgin announced it had secured all of Bmi’s short-haul slots at Heathrow airport (see online news November 19), which it says it will use to “primarily focus on its flying between Scotland and Heathrow running multiple daily flights from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to London Heathrow”.
The carrier also stated that it would use wet-leased Airbus A320 aircraft for the new routes, adding that it would “be revealing specific details of its short haul product and famed on board customer experience in the coming months”.
Earlier this year Virgin also confirmed plans to launch Heathrow-Manchester services, using A319 aircraft (see online news August 21).
Report by Mark Caswell