The flights to Barbados, launching on December 5, will be Scotland’s only direct service to the Caribbean. Flights to Orlando, the theme park capital of the world, will launch on March 30 next year.
It will be the first time Virgin Atlantic has flown international flights from the Scottish capital in its 37-year history.
But seasonal flights from Glasgow to Orlando - running since 2007 until December 2019 - will not be returning. The axing of this route comes despite Virgin Atlantic celebrating a decade of flying between the two cities in 2017 by adding thousands more seats to the route, with bosses at the time describing it as a “firm favourite” with Scottish holidaymakers.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “Although we’re moving our operations from Glasgow, our new base allows us to grow our flight portfolio, offering our Scottish customers more services to more destinations than ever before.”
A Scottish aviation source told The Scotsman that Edinburgh Airport had been desperate to attract major new services after losing other routes because of the Covid pandemic.
They said: "Edinburgh simply had to be seen to win this at any cost given the loss of traffic they are experiencing.
"Emirates has gone, US traffic is reducing and other European carriers like Air Baltic and Iberia are both leaving imminently.
"They needed some good news and had to win it."
The source said the move could also create "synergies" with Virgin Atlantic's sister airline Delta, which flies to New York and Boston from Edinburgh.
However, they said the switch left a big gap in Glasgow, and the Orlando route might be taken over by an airline such as Tui, which has axed its long-haul flights from Edinburgh.
New Edinburgh flights
The new flights from Edinburgh offer travellers from Scotland the chance to holiday in the Caribbean with onward connections from Barbados to Grenada, St Vincent and Tobago thanks to Virgin Atlantic’s connecting flights, alongside flights with Virgin Atlantic’s interline partner, Caribbean Airlines.
The Caribbean flights will operate twice weekly on an Airbus A330. The Orlando flights will also be twice weekly, operating on an Airbus A330-200.
The flights to Orlando will also be a huge draw for families looking to experience the world-famous theme parks, stunning beaches and various sporting events in the city and wider Florida.
Fares start from £419 and customers on the Barbados route will be able to choose to fly in one of three cabins on the A330, including the luxurious ‘upper class,’ which offers an exclusive bar area and fully flat beds, or ‘premium,’ where customers can enjoy a 38ins seat pitch, welcome drinks and fine dining.
Virgin Atlantic’s cargo offering will also be an advantage to firms looking to export goods from Scotland to the Caribbean and the USA.
It comes as Edinburgh Airport continues to focus on growing its cargo operation to help meet the Scottish Government’s exports targets and contribute to its plan for a more sustainable future for aviation in Scotland.
Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “A premier city like Edinburgh deserves premier airlines and we are extremely excited to welcome our newest partner Virgin Atlantic to Scotland’s capital city.
“To be able to deliver flights to Barbados, Scotland’s only direct route to the Caribbean, and Orlando is a fantastic boost to us as we prepare for the post-Covid recovery, and it is a huge show of confidence in Edinburgh Airport’s ability to deliver for passengers across the country.
“We look forward to the new routes launching and watching passengers head off on the holiday of a lifetime from Edinburgh Airport with Virgin Atlantic.”
Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “Commencing international flights from Edinburgh marks an exciting new chapter for Virgin Atlantic and we couldn’t be happier to be flying from a new home in Scotland.
“Our two new routes provide an array of holiday options to suit everyone. From family fun and the thrills of Orlando’s theme parks to the stunning beaches and chilled out vibes in Barbados, we’re confident there’s something to love for all of our Scottish customers.”
Phil Brown, chief executive officer of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, said: “Safely returning to transatlantic international flights is our continuing goal and today’s announcement by our longtime partner Virgin Atlantic, offering service to Edinburgh, Scotland is a step in that direction.
“From visiting historic castles to world-class golf and seafood Edinburgh offers countless opportunities for business and leisure travel.”