Despite lockdown, Virgin Atlantic’s routes to India see robust growth, new flights on horizon (IANS Special)

By Rohit Vaid
New Delhi, Nov 24 : Even as UK reels under a lockdown to curb Covid-19 pandemic, Virgin Atlantic, has prepared plans to commence new flights to India.

The airline has been buoyed by the healthy passenger traffic growth to India during this period.

Accordingly, it has planned to start Delhi-Manchester flights on Jan 6 and Mumbai-Manchester flights on Jan 5.

“The UK-India air bubble has been a welcome addition, and a way for us to reintroduce passenger flying from Mumbai and Delhi to London. However, there are still travel restrictions at play which mean that demand is down compared to last year,” Alex McEwan, Country Manager – India, Virgin Atlantic, told IANS.

“The flights are building momentum and we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from passengers who have flown with us since we restarted our flights.”

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At present, India has entered into ‘Air Bubble’ agreements with several countries including the UK.

This type of arrangement allows nationals of both the countries to travel in either direction.

Besides, McEwan cited that the airline continued to operate flights during UK lockdown period, offering vital connectivity between Delhi and Mumbai to UK.

“We are awaiting developments on restrictions in the UK following the planned end of lockdown on Dec 2 and will plan our schedule accordingly,” he said.

According to McEwan, the airline has witnessed a strong passenger demand between India and the UK.

“In response to this demand, we have announced that we will be flying from India to Manchester for the very first time, with a duo of new routes,” he said.

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“We will begin Mumbai to Manchester on 5th Jan and Delhi to Manchester on 6th Jan, and be the only airline flying these routes direct.”

Currently, the airline is operating flights between Mumbai and Delhi direct to London Heathrow.

In addition, he pointed out that the airline forecasts revenue to be 50 per cent lower than 2019.

“It is expected that the industry will take some time to recover fully and unfortunately it will take years, rather than months,” he added.

“We have completed a recapitalisation process worth 1.2 billion pound sterling, which allows us to rebuild our balance sheet and to face the challenges ahead.”

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at rohit.v@ians.in)

–IANS
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