Heathrow slot shortage is holding Virgin back, says Branson

Heathrow slot shortage is holding Virgin back, says BransonA shortage of operating slots at Heathrow is so acute that it is holding back Virgin Atlantic’s expansion, according to founder Sir Richard Branson (pictured).

The limit on slots available at the carrier’s main London hub means that the airline must scrap an existing route before it can add a new destination, he told Bloomberg.

The situation has forced Virgin Atlantic to scrap three routes to Asia, a “sad” consequence of adding more profitable North American flights, he said.

The airline is changing its route network to accommodate a partnership with Delta Air Lines, which bought a 49% stake last year.

Sir Richard said: “Virgin Atlantic has a unique problem. It’s impossible for us to get slots at Heathrow and that’s where our base is.”

The carrier is using the alliance with Delta, the third-biggest airline in the US, to boost earnings as it targets a return to profit by the end of this year.

Virgin Atlantic is adding a daily service from Heathrow to Delta’s hub in Detroit, along with additional daily flights to the US carrier’s base in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York.

“Because we are partners with Delta, and they’re a pretty powerful airline, we can get a fantastic feed from Delta on to our planes,” Sir Richard said.

“In a couple of weeks’ time, I’m starting one of those new routes from Atlanta to London, which is a beneficiary from us cancelling one of the far eastern routes.”

As it expands its transatlantic network to the US, Virgin Atlantic is dropping routes to destinations such as Tokyo, Mumbai, Cape Town and Vancouver.

Sir Richard Branson was in Dallas to mark a move by Virgin America, in which he owns a stake, from Dallas-Fort Worth international to the city’s Love Field airport, after restrictions on non-stop flights from the smaller airport were lifted.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

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