Virgin Atlantic is Britain’s secondary flag carrier, with bases at London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and Manchester Ringway airports. It has a transatlantic joint venture agreement with Delta, which will soon extend to include Air France-KLM as well. Furthermore, Virgin Atlantic is one of the few global airlines that is entirely long-haul driven, from a network and aircraft perspective. It is known for being very brand-oriented with luxurious lounges, like the Clubhouse in London Heathrow.
Virgin Atlantic and Delta
Delta Air Lines owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic, while the other 51% is owned by the Virgin Group. The Virgin Group, however, sold 31% of its stake to Air France-KLM in mid-July 2017, valued at 200 GBP. It does not have any ownership stakes in any of the other airlines with the name “Virgin” in it, such as Virgin Australia or Virgin America.
Since the partnership with Delta was formulated, Virgin has scaled back significantly in many of its global markets and focused more heavily on services to the North America region. Over the past five years, it has canceled services to Mumbai, Tokyo Narita, Cape Town, Sydney, Chicago O’Hare, and Vancouver.
The routes below depict the current markets that are “covered” by the JV agreement, as they mostly revolve around U.S. – U.K. services on both Delta and Virgin, as well as continued service from London Heathrow to Lagos, Johannesburg, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. It has occasionally swapped out metal with Delta on several transatlantic routes, including London to Atlanta, Detroit, Seattle, Newark, and Los Angeles.
Virgin Atlantic Routes
Virgin’s operations are spread between its London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and Manchester bases. Its operations from Heathrow are concentrated around key business markets in the U.S., Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The map below depicts London Heathrow routes. Service to Lagos will terminate in January 2018, whereas service to Bridgetown, Barbados will commence in December 2017.
London Gatwick is entirely leisure-based markets, and are oriented around the North America region. All of Virgin Atlantic’s Caribbean and Mexican markets originate in Gatwick, in addition to Las Vegas and Orlando.
Similarly, the Manchester base operates to leisure markets in the Caribbean, as well as a few in North America. There are also several non-leisure routes to Atlanta and New York JFK from Manchester on Virgin Atlantic, facilitated by the Delta JV.
Not pictured are also seasonal routes that Virgin Atlantic flies from Glasgow and Belfast to Orlando, but only during peak travel periods.
Virgin Atlantic’s fleet count is relatively small. It presently has around 37 aircraft in service, with two Boeing variants (the 747-400 and 787-9) and two Airbus variants (the Airbus A330-300 and Airbus A340-600). Between its bases, the 787-9 and Airbus A340-600 are only based at Heathrow. The Airbus A330-300 is based at Heathrow, Gatwick, and Manchester, and the 747-400s are based only at Gatwick and Manchester. The 747-400 is also utilized to operate the seasonal flights to Orlando from Belfast and Glasgow.
The Airbus A330-300
Virgin’s A330s are utilized on medium-range routes to the Eastern U.S., Caribbean, and Dubai from all three bases. There are currently 8 in service. These feature a rather dated Upper-Class product, which I flew from Detroit to London Heathrow in 2016, but also are being revamped.
The Airbus A340-600
The Airbus A340-600 is used to operate longer-range routes, as well as high-density flights to large markets, from London Heathrow. There are currently 7 in service. You can read a trip report on flying Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow to Dubai in Upper Class here.
The 747-400 is the oldest aircraft in Virgin’s fleet, averaging roughly 17.93 years. There are 8 of these in the fleet and used entirely on leisure routes.
The Dreamliner is the newest addition to the Virgin Atlantic fleet, with 14 currently in service and an additional 3 on order. These are entirely based in London Heathrow and fly to flagship routes like Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York, Johannesburg, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New Delhi. They feature the newest business and premium economy class products on Virgin.
Virgin also has 12 Airbus A350s on order.