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
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Sat 25 Feb 2012 02:38 PM

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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