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Sat 25 Feb 2012 02:38 PM

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Virgin Atlantic mulls MidEast route expansion

London-based carrier says the arrival of new aircraft could see it grow its London-Dubai route

Virgin Atlantic mulls MidEast route expansion
Richard Branson Virgin Atlantic

London-based Virgin Atlantic has said it may look at expanding its Middle East network following the arrival of its A330 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft, a spokesperson has told Arabian Business.

The carrier, controlled by the British billionaire Richard Branson, said while it had no immediate plans to introduce a second London-Dubai route, the arrival of its new aircraft would give it some flexibility to do so.

“Virgin Atlantic is very committed to the region and we are constantly evaluating opportunities as to where to grow our network,” a spokesperson for the airline said.

“Whilst we have not got any immediate plans to add a second daily service from Dubai our fleet growth in the next two years, with the arrival of new Airbus A330’s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners, do give us the flexibility to increase our services to and from Dubai to London if we feel the market conditions are right,” he added.

Virgin Atlantic has 15 Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order, which are expected to enter service from 2014, and is set to take delivery of seven new A330-300 aircraft later in the year.

The UK-based firm in July ruled out wider expansion in the Middle East but said its Dubai-London route remained an important asset.

“If you look at the London end of the route versus the Dubai end of the route, we originate about 25 percent of our revenue of out of Dubai and 75 percent from the UK and that’s not true on all of the routes. This end of the market remains really important to us,” CCO Julie Southern told Arabian Business.

“This [Dubai] is such a central hub for the Gulf region that I think it’s mostly likely that if we do anything, it will be an additional frequency to serve this market rather than go to somewhere relatively close by and start a brand new route,” she added.

Virgin last week said it planned to employ 500 new cabin crew under plans to expand its network and fleet for 2012.

The extra posts are being created for Virgin Atlantic's new routes to Cancun and Vancouver, as well as other long-haul network destinations such as New York, Barbados, Las Vegas and Shanghai.

The carrier, the second biggest long-haul airline at London’s Heathrow Airport, on Feb 6 said it is investing $158m revamping its premium cabin to fend off increasing competition from British Airways and American Airlines.

Virgin said it would roll out the changes, which include a new Upper Class menu featuring a cheese trolley and afternoon tea, on its Airbus A330 wide-body planes linking Heathrow with JFK and on future aircraft assigned to the route.

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Anonymous 8 years ago

Add Kuwait please, BA is rubbish!!!

RAH 8 years ago

At least with BA, we get connectivity to all of Europe and the U.S. With Virgin, where would we connect to besides London?

Rubbish or not, BA remains a world-class airline with a hige network and lounges at Heathrow that rivals the best in the world.

Keep Virgin out of Kuwait. We prefer BA here.

Original Joe 8 years ago

RAH, you are clueless. Where besides London? How about New York and LA? Lounges? Even been to the Virgin Atlantic lounge at Heathrow. It is unbelievable!! BA is rubbish!!!

MM88 8 years ago

@Anonymous - Build a new airport and then MAYBE Virgin will think about the Kuwait route. Currently, you have to be joking to ask anyone to fly out of that rundown terminal. You just closed the Virgin Store primarily because of an aggressive cencorship committee, do think he would even think twice about entering the Kuwait market - not his style, please. You are stuck with BA and the reason why it is poor is probably because they don't respect the market due to the hassles they have to endure to fly out of that terminal. The mpost important development project in the State of Kuwait - A NEW AIRPORT TERMINAL.

ben 8 years ago

i think you will find virgin connect to the us vancouver and many caribbean islands

Original Joe 8 years ago

MM88, you are as clueless as the day is long....

Emirates just announced they will launch their 5th daily flight to Kuwait. I fly this route often. Business Class is always full. Many of these flyers are transitting through Dubai to other airports including Heathrow.

New Airport? Hassles? What are you on about? Virgin Store is a different business and irrelevant. Regarding BA, they are bad because they are BAD everywhere!!! It has nothing to do with Kuwait!!!

If Virgin Atlantic flies to Kuwait their Upper Class will be full on every flight!! I suspect economy will as well with so many North American connections.

HGH 8 years ago

From extensive long haul travel experience into the region, I can say that there is certainly demand for Virgin into several other locations. No airline is wonderful these days, But overall, I find that Virgin provides the best long haul experience of all the airlines, especially if you take into account the customer focussed approach to changing tickets, check-in, etc etc

Virgin should consider Riyadh. There is huge demand into Riyadh, especially in the premium cabins, but the choice from the UK is very limited, Saudi Airlines and BA (any I like so many other Brits have had enough bad experience with BA inflexibility on changing flights, hand luggage, etc etc that we only travel BA if there is absolutely to other alternative)