Virgin Atlantic Airways plans BA challenge at expanded Heathrow

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In a direct challenge to British Airways' dominance, Delta-backed Virgin Atlantic Airways has set out plans for an aggressive expansion of its network from London Heathrow. Virgin regards itself as a potential second flag carrier for the UK, offering lower fares and greater choice to consumers.

Virgin's plans would take its Heathrow long haul network from 19 routes to 54. They would also expand its network to embrace UK domestic routes (12 of them) and short/medium haul European routes (37 of them). They include routes that are BA or IAG monopolies in addition to destinations that are not served by BA, and entirely new destinations for Heathrow.

However, Virgin will only add these 84 new routes if Heathrow's proposed third runway is built and if the slot allocation system is changed. Virgin and its partners have 8.6% of slots at Heathrow (3.5% for Virgin itself), whereas IAG and its partners have close to 60% (51.1% for BA). Virgin's expanded network would require a disproportionate allocation of new capacity to it.

However, that does not stop Virgin from casting itself in the familiar role of advocate for the consumer to put pressure on the incumbent.

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