Virgin Atlantic has set out sweeping proposals for a huge increase in its operations at Heathrow post-third runway completion.
Up to 31 new routes including a significant number of UK domestic flights are proposed.
In many ways the where to outside of the UK is irrelevant so early on, and even those inside the UK are merely accommodating the stated desire of improving air links to meet government demands on domestic connectivity; part of the rationale behind the third runway.
The real argument is about slot allocations – IAG’s stranglehold over Heathrow with 55% of the slots and another 77 routes where it has immunised joint ventures or zero competition through alliances and codeshares.
It’s this that Virgin Atlantic wants to break and its proposals are clearly aimed at IAG – and they notoriously don’t want the third runway for the very reason Virgin Atlantic do.
Virgin Atlantic claims from ‘independent’ research that IAG is keeping fares 10% higher than they need to be through its monopolies.
Either way the timing of the proposals are aimed just as importantly at the government, which is reviewing the way slots at Heathrow are managed and allocated.
In any event, it’s starting to show how clearly the acquisition of Flybe will fit into the airlines planes for European and UK regional expansion.