Virgin Atlantic's Little Red subsidiary will from next summer axe one of four daily flights on its London to Manchester route.
The news hardly comes as a surprise — our online forum has carried numerous reports of poor passenger loads on this and other Little Red domestic routes. Some flights, it has been reported, have operated with passenger loads of just 10 per cent.
So, starting from Sunday March 30, Little Red will operate London Heathrow to Manchester at 0930, 1710 and 2010. Return flights from Manchester will depart at 0750, 1220 and 1850.
By comparison, today's four daily flights depart Heathrow at 0905, 1220, 1645 and 2005. The return services leave Manchester at 0725, 1040, 1415 and 1820.
The Virgin Atlantic website is already displaying the revised schedule.
Little Red's domestic network was established as a means for Virgin Atlantic to feed regional passengers onto its long-haul network at Heathrow. Flights are operated under contract by Aer Lingus using a one-class A320.
So while some passengers will gain by having better connections, others will lose out by having to wait many hours longer in between flights. In particular, there will be a huge gap heading north between 0930 and 1710. Heading south, there's a lengthy gap between 0750 and 1220 and between 1220 and 1850.
Virgin Atlantic said that the service reduction is down to a loss of slots to another carrier, rather than poor demand. According to thebusinessdesk.com, Virgin Atlantic said bookings are growing strongly but would not give figures ahead of financial results in the spring.
Some confusion surrounds the slots which Virgin Atlantic was awarded following British Airways' takeover of Bmi.
The obvious question is why axe a Manchester flight if the route is supposed to be growing? Cannot Virgin Atlantic utilise one of the slots used for Little Red's flights to Edinburgh or Aberdeen instead?
Virgin Atlantic said the Manchester slots were "loaned from another carrier. We have now had to return these slots to their owner." The carrier in question has not been named.
Slots to Edinburgh and Aberdeen are unaffected because they were awarded to Virgin Atlantic through an agreement made with the European Commission.
But aviation experts are of the opinion that if the Manchester route was "growing strongly" then surely Virgin Atlantic would have kept the fourth flight by utilising one of the slots from its international network.