Virgin unveils new routes but no sign of Delta

 
Marion Dakers
VIRGIN Atlantic will begin its challenge to British Airways’ domestic routes in April with 24 flights a day, the firm confirmed today.

But the firm remains tight-lipped about reports that US airline Delta is close to buying Singapore Airlines’ 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic.

Delta is believed to be in talks with its European partner Air France-KLM to buy a slice of Virgin Atlantic from Singapore.

Virgin said today it will take nine of the 12 BA slot pairs on offer at Heathrow to launch flights to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The remaining three slot pairs will revert back to BA’s parent company IAG, but will still be open to bids from rival firms on certain routes under the terms of a European competition ruling.

Virgin had hoped to also start flying to Moscow using some of the slots, but was thwarted by a Civil Aviation Authority decision to award the route rights to EasyJet.

BA was forced put the lucrative slots on the block after its purchase of regional carrier BMI in April gave it a monopoly on some parts of its network.

Virgin, traditionally a long-haul carrier, is also starting a route to Manchester next year using some of its existing Heathrow capacity.

The firm has signed a deal to lease some of Aer Lingus’s planes, maintenance and crew in order to operate the new services.

“This is a robust business model that will protect competition to and from Heathrow for the long-term,” said chief executive Steve Ridgway.