• Thursday, May 23, 2024

Business

Virgin Atlantic announces fifth direct flight to India

Shai Weiss (Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

Pramod ThomasBy: Pramod Thomas

WITNESSING “infinite demand” in the strong Indian aviation market, British carrier Virgin Atlantic said it will start an additional daily flight connecting Mumbai and London from October.

The airline added that it will look to expand its codeshare partnership with IndiGo.

Currently, Virgin Atlantic operates two daily flights to London Heathrow from Delhi and one each from Mumbai and Bengaluru. The London-Bengaluru services started on March 31.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said India is the third largest market for the airline after North America and the Caribbean.

From 2025, Virgin Atlantic will offer over one million seats to India, a capacity growth of 350 per cent since 2019. At present, the airline operates around 10 per cent of its total capacity to India.

The carrier will have a total of 45 planes, including B787s and A350s, by the end of this year.

The airline will launch its second daily direct service from London Heathrow to Mumbai from October 2024, subject to government approval under the enhanced bilateral flying rights.

Weiss said the airline will look to expand its codeshare partnership with IndiGo.

Currently, the partnership with IndiGo offers 36 additional destinations for Virgin Atlantic passengers.

Codesharing allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence.

Besides, the British airline is quadrupling the number of Indian cabin crew this summer and each of its flights from India will have four of them.

Weiss said that pandemic years have actually strengthened India than any other markets and added that for every flight to and from India, there will be around four Indian cabin crew.

“Next year marks 25 years of operations and with our new daily service to Bengaluru and second daily service to Mumbai, it will be the first time that we’ll offer more than one million seats from London Heathrow,” Weiss said.

With five daily services, the airline said Virgin Atlantic Cargo will offer over 40 million kilogram of space to and from India, a 336 per cent increase in capacity versus 2019.

“There is an infinite demand in the Indian market, which has grown significantly. Tickets tend to be cheaper now than in the future, there is good visibility into the summer and fares are holding up,” Weiss noted.

The ticket sales is around 35 per cent in India while it is 55 per cent in the UK, and Weiss said the number is expected to go up to 50 per cent in India.

In terms of air traffic for Virgin Atlantic, Weiss said that around 80 per cent are Origin & Destination, while 20 per cent is for onward journeys.

“With the growing number of Indian business travellers, tourists, and students to the UK, the addition of Virgin Atlantic to the existing air travel options would be of tremendous benefit to the entire southern region of India,” Chandru K Iyer, British deputy high commissioner for Karnataka and Kerala, said.

(PTI)

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