Virgin Atlantic claims it could serve 84 new destinations from Heathrow if action is taken to break British Airways owner IAG’s stranglehold on the airport.
The airline has released plans showing it could more than quadruple its current 19 routes from the airport once the third runway is completed.
However, Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said more would need to be done to curb IAG’s hold on many of the airport’s slots to ensure it gets a fair bite at the cherry and can become the UK’s other national carrier.
Of the 84 new routes, 12 would be domestic and include airports such as Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester, while Barcelona, Dublin and Madrid would be among the 37 new European destinations.
Further afield would see Buenos Aires, Jakarta and Kunming among the list of 35 new mid to long-haul destinations.
Weiss said the planned new destinations are in line with the UK government’s aviation strategy green paper which lists fair slot development – to increase choice and lower fares – as a primary objective.
It would also fit secondary objectives, including growing domestic connectivity and improving international links.
He added to do this though, and to allow Virgin Atlantic to become the UK’s second national carrier, the additional slots created by the completion of the third runway must be more fairly allocated.
IAG currently controls 55% of the airport’s slots compared to a maximum of 5% for any other carrier.
Weiss said IAG and its joint venture partners currently operate 77 monopoly routes out of Heathrow and Virgin would compete on 26 of these routes, providing it is given the opportunity.
Weiss added: “Never has the need for effective competition and choice at Heathrow airport been more evident than during this summer of disruption, which has brought misery for tens of thousands of travellers.
“Britain, and those who travel to it, deserve better than this. Air passengers need a choice, and Virgin Atlantic is ready to deliver when Heathrow expands.
“Heathrow has been dominated by one airline group for far too long.
“The third runway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the status quo and create a second flag carrier.
“This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers, as well giving Britain a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world.
“Changing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated for this unique and vital increase in capacity at the nation’s hub airport will create the right conditions for competition and innovation to thrive.”
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