Virgin Atlantic has announced the launch of flights to Manchester from New Delhi and Mumbai. The airline will fly to Mumbai thrice a week starting December 19, 2020 while the twice a week operations to New Delhi will begin on January 05, 2021. The airline will operate three class B787-9 Dreamliner on both these routes. The B787-9 Dreamliner will offer 31 Upper Class. 35 Premium and 192 Economy Delight, Classic and Light seats. The airline will operate to Mumbai on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday (return on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) while flights to New Delhi on Tuesday and Friday (return on Wednesdays and Saturdays)
The timings are as below
VS326 MAN0935 – 0005(+1)BOM
VS327 BOM0245 – 0715MAN
VS324 MAN1050 – 0030(+1)DEL
VS325 DEL0220 – 0610MAN
In february, the airline had announced thrice a week service between Manchester and New Delhi starting October 26, 2020 – the beginning of winter schedule. The world has undergone a drastic change since then with the pandemic raging in full swing, taking a couple of airlines down along the way. Virgin Atlantic planned to operate the flight with Airbus A330-200.
This new launch comes over a year and half after Jet Airways – a partner of Virgin Atlantic suspended services. Jet Airways operated five times a week service to Manchester from Mumbai. While Jet Airways had its heavy presence in Mumbai, Virgin Atlantic has been lucky with New Delhi. IndiGo had requested slots for flights to Manchester in the past.
While the new flight from New Delhi, would have offered connections to New York and Orlando – the air bubble arrangement means that airlines are only allowed to carry passengers with Destination in the United Kingdom and not beyond. There is no clarity on when India would allow international travel for all airlines – which has been suspended since March and travel is restricted under the air bubble agreement with few countries.
Manchester (IATA: MAN) is the third busiest airport in the United Kingdom and busiest outside the London area. Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights to Mumbai and New Delhi and pre-COVID19 operated double daily to New Delhi.
There are around 60,000 passengers who fly one stop from the Manchester area to Mumbai while 180,000 who fly to New Delhi. The market was primarily with the gulf carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. There are 22.4 million people within a 2 hour driving distance of Manchester airport, with 2.8 million in the greater Manchester area.
The new route is a little surprising as the airline is focusing more on Mumbai over Delhi. Come December, there will be five carriers operating between India and London Heathrow – British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air India, Vistara and Spicejet. With limited routes on offer across the world, Virgin Atlantic might be vying for the VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) traffic to India during the winter months.
The airline, like others, has been going through tough times and retired B747s and A340s from its fleet.