Richard Branson hints at Virgin flights from Edinburgh to US

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Virgin could follow up its choice of Edinburgh as the location for its first UK hotel by launching a direct flight from the city to the United States, Sir Richard Branson has suggested.

The billionaire revealed yesterday that Virgin Hotels is to open a 225-bedroom high-end hotel at India Buildings in Victoria Street in 2020.

A Virgin Atlantic passenger plane comes into land at Heathrow Airport in west London. Picture: Leon Neal

A Virgin Atlantic passenger plane comes into land at Heathrow Airport in west London. Picture: Leon Neal

He said he was “thrilled” about the development and hailed it as “our flagship hotel in Europe”.

READ MORE: Virgin to open its first UK hotel in Edinburgh

But Sir Richard, whose grandparents came from Edinburgh, went on to speak about a possible expansion of the Virgin business here beyond the hotel announcement.

He said: “We have also got Virgin Trains coming to Edinburgh and maybe we could use that to help promote the hotel.

“We also have Virgin Money offices in Edinburgh. Maybe we could even look at getting a direct flight to the US.”

The idea was welcomed today by city leaders, Edinburgh Airport and the business community.

There are currently direct flights from Edinburgh to seven US airports - Washington, Chicago, New York JFK, New York Newark, Stewart, Providence and Orlando.

City council economy convener Gavin Barrie said: “It would be fantastic if Virgin airlines were flying to the US from Edinburgh – a great addition to the routes and great connectivity with the Virgin Hotel. I’m sure it would be well used and well liked and it would mean more competition which is good for the public.”

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “We’re always delighted to welcome any airline that wants to bring passengers to our fantastic city.

“Flights to America have grown significantly in the past few years driven by the increasing number of Americans choosing to visit Edinburgh and Scotland.

“Virgin is a great brand and we look forward to working with it again to improve Scotland’s connectivity.”

Business expert Graham Birse said a new direct Virgin service across the Atlantic would be a boost for Edinburgh. “The more direct routes we can have to North America the better in a post-Brexit Scotland,” he said.

“The exchange rate at the moment is very attractive for visitors from North America coming to Scotland.

“Direct flights mean travellers don’t have to go through the bottleneck, inconvenience and grime of London and can come straight to a much more refreshing and attractive capital.”

He said in launching a new route from Edinburgh, Virgin might well opt to go to a US city not already served from the city.

“I think the golden age of luxury aviation has probably gone now unless you can afford to go up at the front of the plane. But Virgin as a brand is regarded with affection as a pioneer of North American travel at affordable fares and with high quality service.”