VIRGIN Atlantic has today announced the launch of 18 flights a day between Scotland and Heathrow Airport, preventing a British Airways (BA) monopoly on Scottish flights to London’s biggest airport.
The move is part of 24 domestic flights added to the long-haul operator’s network, with six round trips a day between Edinburgh and Heathrow and three between Aberdeen and Heathrow.
Following the takeover of BMI by BA parent company International Airlines Group, competition rules have forced BA give up a dozen daily pairs of flights to and from Heathrow, including domestic routes to Scotland.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin’s first domestic schedule will open on 31 March, 2013, with tickets on sale from 19 December from £99 return.
The move will create 128 jobs for cabin crew and pilots and 26 office jobs. At least 24 cabin crew will be based at Aberdeen, with the remainder split between Aberdeen, Manchester and Heathrow.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “Throughout our history, Virgin Atlantic has successfully fought British Airways all over the world and has offered passengers a compelling alternative.
“We will look to replicate that in our short-haul flying and challenge the current BA monopoly on these routes which is causing serious consumer harm.”
The introduction of competition, which is expected to cut the price of flights between Scotland and Heathrow, has been welcomed by the Scottish Government and opposition politicians.
The Scottish Government, however, also called for the introduction of a new service from Glasgow, where BA continues to be the only operator.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We welcome Virgin’s announcement, as these nine new round-trip flights are a good result for Scotland.
“We are still concerned about the absence of competition on the Glasgow/Heathrow route and will continue to promote its reintroduction; as well as our desire for better direct international connectivity.”
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “I also welcome Virgin’s presence into the feeder market at Heathrow connecting to the rest of the world.
“There is a myth that the best thing is for Scottish airports to have direct long-haul connections.
“While I have no objection to that, there is definitely no substitute for having regular connections to genuine worldwide hubs like Heathrow, for business and tourists.”