Virgin Atlantic saved by Galactic

Virgin Atlantic Airways has just announced a major new programme of routes for summer 2021, starting March 28. It’s been able to do so because of the success of Virgin Galactic and its long term contractual prospects with NASA and in space tourism.

The Virgin Galactic brand had a successful IPO last year and Virgin Group is selling 25,000,000 shares in the company worth around $400 million.

The money will be used to prop up the airline in the UK and the groups new cruise line business which stands to be extremely profitable in the longer term.

Discussions on raising money with investors (including, worryingly Greybull, whose record isn’t brilliant when it comes to propping up failing businesses – like Monarch Airlines as just one example, and British Steel as another), have been held but selling off a stake in the airline, which is Branson’s real baby, will be the last thing he wants to do.

He recently pulled out of a deal to let AF-KLM buy 30% – which was part of a deal with Delta they made for shares in AF-KLM, payment for which would be used to finance the Virgin Atlantic buyout. That never happened, and probably a good thing too as AF-KLM would have been as much use as a chocolate fireguard in the current crisis. Delta have completely washed their hands of any responsibility for the airline they own 49% of, AF-KLM would have done the same.

With Gatwick gone, all 2021 Caribbean flying from there will move to Heathrow from March 28. The airline is already moving 2020 schedules to Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic also plans to maintain all current US destinations from Heathrow, although fights to New York Newark (EWR) will be permanently discontinued, which they announced in March.

Flights from Heathrow will operate to: Antigua (ANU), Atlanta (ATL), Barbados (BGI), Boston (BOS), Delhi (DEL), Grenada (GND), Havana (HAV), Hong Kong (HKG), Johannesburg (JNB), Lagos (LOS), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Montego Bay (MBJ), Mumbai (BOM), New York (JFK), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Shanghai (PVG), Tel Aviv (TLV), Tobago (TAB) and Washington (IAD).

The LHR-TLV route, launched in September 2019, will also become double-daily, while the new winter seasonal service to Cape Town (CPT) will continue into April.

From Manchester, Virgin Atlantic will fly to ATL, BGI, JFK, LAX and MCO. However, flights to BOS and LAS are being dropped. The airline has also not confirmed what will happen to the planned MAN-DEL route, due to start this winter but this morning bookings for it were closed, so it looks like its been dropped. Seasonal service to MCO from GLA and BFS will be maintained.

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