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7JetSet7 Code: VAA
Status: Operational
Region: EUROPE
Country: ENGLAND
Employees 8993
Telephone: +44 (3448) 11000
Fax: +44 (1293) 56 17 21

Click below for data links:
VAA-2004-01 VUS
VAA-2004-05-A380 DELAY
VAA-2004-10-MORE A340S
VAA-2004-11 747
VAA-2004-12-VNA-B ASIA
VAA-2005-01-21 YRS-A
VAA-2005-01-21 YRS-B
VAA-2005-06-21 YRS-A
VAA-2005-06-21 YRS-B
VAA-2011-10-MOODY A330
VAA-2011-12 747-400 REFURB
VAA-2013-04 - UPDATE
VAA-2013-07 - A380 DELAY
VAA-2014-10 - 1ST 787-9
VAA-2015-03 - 1ST 787-9.jpg
VAA-2015-06 - Belfast to Orlando.jpg
VAA-2015-08 - Top Premium Economy- 4th.jpg
VAA-2015-12 Another Virgin.jpg
VAA-2016-06 - London Gatwick Airport Pier 1.jpg
VAA-2018-08 Orlando MCO Virgin Invasion.jpg
VAA-Cabin Attendants 2018-05.jpg
VAA-PETS CAN FLY - 2013-07



Great Britain (United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland) was established in 1066, it covers an area of 242,432 sq km, its population is 59 million, its capital city is London and its official language is English.





TO EVALUATE 737'S, VS B AE 146'S VS F 100'S.



1 A340-312 (312), (ILF) LEASED.





3RD 747-400 (CF6-80C2B1F) (RT947), (ILF) LEASED.




NOVEMBER 1996: 1 767-300ER (PW4060) (24428), MARTINAIR (MTH) WET-LEASED.



FEBRUARY 1997: 1 747-200 (JT9D-7J) (20842) DELIVERY.


TO RECEIVE 2 747-400'S & 3 A340-300'S IN 1997 FOR FLEET OF 20 AIRPLANES.


JUNE 1997: 1 747-41R (CF6-80C2B1F) (28757) DELIVERY.











JANUARY 1998: A340-313X (164 - "MAIDEN TOKYO") DELIVERY.

FEBRUARY 1998: BUYS 5 747-200'S, EX-AIR NEW ZEALAND (ANZ) (OCTOBER 1998 TO 2000).

MARCH 1998: A340-313X (214), (ILF) LEASED.








SEPTEMBER 1998: 1 747-267B (22872). 6TH 747-41R (29406) DELIVERY.


2 747-267B'S (22872; 23048), EX-(CAT). 2 ORDERS A340-600'S (TRENT 500) FOR TOTAL OCTOBER 1998.


747-283 (20121) PARTED OUT.












747-219 (527-22723, G-VBEE) DELIVERY, 1ST OF 5 EX-AIR NEW ZEALAND (ANZ). A320-214 (714, G-BXKA), EX-FLYING COLORS (FLN).





25 CDI 16.70; 26 AMW 16.36; 27 VAR 16.25; 28 SAS 12.98; 29 CHI 12.64; 30 VAA 12.27; 31 SVA 11.69; 32 ASA 11.27; 33 ANZ 11.15; 34 ANS 10.14.


JULY 1999: 2ND 747-200B (RD471, G-VZZZ) EX-AIR NEW ZEALAND (ANZ).



1998 = +$177.7 MILLION (+$57.2 MILLION): 12.27 BILLION (RPM) TRAFFIC (+8%), 1.75 MILLION (FTM) FREIGHT TRAFFIC (+5.9%).





1998 = +$127.7 MILLION.







747-123 (RA909, 84 18) PARTED OUT.



4,409 EMPLOYEES. (



10 ORDERS (2001) 737NG FOR VIRGIN BLUE (VOZ), (ILF) LEASED. 747-219B (563-22725, G-VPUF), EX-(ANZ) (4TH OF 5) (78 13) DELIVERY.



MAY 2000: 1 A321 (1219), (GECAS) (GEH) 5 YEAR LEASED.




JULY 2000: 1999 = +$91.18 MILLION (+$127.73M): 25.03 BILLION (RPK) TRAFFIC (+13.1%); 77% LF LOAD FACTOR; 901.24 MILLION (FTK) FREIGHT TRAFFIC (+21.2%); 3.62M PASSENGERS (PAX) (+13.2%); 7,076 EMPLOYEES (+36.7%).


AUGUST 2000: +2 ORDERS (DECEMBER 2001) 747-400 (GE), (GEH) LEASED (FOR TOTAL 18 747'S WITH 8 747-400'S).





DECEMBER 2000: TO HIRE 1,700 STAFF IN 2001.


16 KAL 30.99; 17 IBE 30.21; 18 AMW 23.12; 19 VAA 22.08; 20 VAR 19.79; 21 CHI 19.04; 22 ANA 17.66; 23 SAS 17.41.


JANUARY 2001: 1 747-267B (RB211-524C2) (531-22530, TF-ABA), AIR ATLANTA ICELANDIC (AID), WET-LEASED UNTIL JUNE 2001.

21 IBE 24.87; 22 MAS 23.58; 23 SWS 21.28; 24 AMW 19.1; 25 VAA 18.31; 26 VAR 16.33.

APRIL 2001: 7,900 EMPLOYEES.







TO SELL 3 747-200'S (JT9D-7J) (20842; 20921; 21189) TO KABO (KAB). 747-443 (32340, G-VROY) DELIVERY.






747-243B (19732) SOLD TO KABO AIR (KAB) FOR DELIVERY IN 1ST QUARTER 2002. 1 747-443 (1277-32340, G-VROY), (GEF) LEASED.









1 747-219B (22723) & 2 747-267B'S (22872; 23048) SOLD TO AIR ATLANTA ICELANDIC (AID). 1 747-287B (21189) SOLD TO KABO AIR (KAB).

JANUARY 2002: DELAYS DELIVERY OF 4 A340-600'S FROM 2002, TO 2003.

1 UAL 116.60; 2 AAL 106.15; 3 DAL 97.60; 4 NWA 73.11; 5 BAB 64.24; 6 AFA 59.54; 7 CAL 58.76; 8 DLH 56.76; 9 JAL 50.77; 10 USA 45.93; 11 SWA 44.50; 12 SIA 42.76; 13 QAN 42.14; 14 ACN 41.49; 15 KLM 35.76; 16 ANA 33.16; 17 CAT 27.81; 18 TII 27.43; 19 IBE 25.64; 20 KAL 23.73; 21 ALI 22.45; 22 MAS 22.29; 23 AMW 19.06; 24 VAA 17.65; 25 VAR 16.02; 26 CHI 16.00; 27 EAD 14.37; 28 SAS 14.26; 29 ANZ 13.54; 30 SAA 12.70; 31 SVA 12.56; 32 BEJ 12.39; 33 ASA 12.23; 34 JAS 10.06; 35 THY 9.35; 36 AMX 8.51; 37 PAL 8.36; 38 GIA 8.15; 39 CMA 7.99; 40 ELA 7.79; 41 GUL 7.65; 42 PIA 7.24; 43 AIN 7.10; 44 TAP 6.43; 45 EGP 5.53; 46 OLY 5.24; 47 AUL 5.06; 48 FIN 4.93; 49 IND 4.52; 50 CQT 4.51.













July 2002: Within 2 years, to invest $100 Million to launch a new low-cost airline (VUS) (possibly named "Virgin Red" or "Virgin America") in the USA, with 10 737's or A320's from a base in the Northeast or West Coast.

2001 = -$130 Million/90 Million pounds (+$65 Million): 30.2 Billion (RPK) Traffic (+2.5%); 75.8% LF Load Factor; 4.78 Million Passengers (PAX) (+11.6%); 918.78 Million (FTK) Freight Traffic (-9.6%); 6,330 Employees (-19.9%).

The usual flamboyant Sir Richard Branson takes delivery of 1st A340-600, 380 PAX at the Farnborough Air Show. The airplane is bedecked in British colors with Union Jacks stylishly painted on the winglets. He named the airplane "Claudia Nine" after top model, Claudia Schiffer who was on hand at the initial London Heathrow delivery. He stated that "quite a lot of the airplane is made in the UK" and at 240 feet is the longest airplane in the world, and he couldn't resist writing "Mine's Bigger than Yours" on the side of the fuselage. A340-642 (383, G-VSHY "CLOUD NINE") delivery.

August 2002: Under contract with (ARINC) and in collaboration with Tenzing Communications, intends to launch seatback, short message service (SMS), text service, using (MAS) software. Will launch (SMS)/text, email in one 747-400, followed by installation on its A340-600's, and subsequently the rest of its fleet. Tenzing is providing ground support and global message delivery services.

To New York (A340-600).

Air France (AFA) Industries has contract for component support for Virgin Atlantic (VAA) 10 A340-600'S.

September 2002: In May 2003, London Gatwick (LGW) to Tobago to Grenada (weekly). In winter, Manchester to Barbados (weekly).

October 2002: 1st airline in February 2003, to retrofit its 12 747-400's with 8 X 8 inches, Rockwell Collins' DU-7001 new active matrix liquid crystal displays.

A340-642 (391, G-VMEG "MYSTIC MAIDEN") delivery.

November 2002: $325 Million long-term, aftermarket support agreement to Rolls Royce (RR) covering (Trent 500) engines for 10 A340-600 airplanes through 2016.

In January 2003, to Port Harcourt from London Heathrow (LHR) in cooperation with Nigeria Airways (NIA) (A340-300, 2x-weekly). In 2003, to Australia via Hong Kong.

Opens its $39 Million hangar at London Heathrow (LHR), designed to accommodate its A340-600'S as well as its ordered A380's with 139,932 sq ft of working space, and measures 262.4 ft wide and 311.6 ft long.

A340-600's 311-PAX are dedicated to the London Heathrow to Tokyo route.

747-219B (22724) WFU. A340-642 (416, G-VOGE "COVER GIRL"), delivery.

December 2002: In February 2003, London Gatwick (LGW) to Port Harcourt (the oil capital of Nigeria) (A340-300, 2x-weekly). Manchester to Barbados (747-200) Air Atlanta Europe operations (AID).

A340-642 (449, G-VFOX "Silver Lady") delivery.

March 2003: Sir Richard Branson, Executive Chairman has vowed to do what it takes to start a low-cost operation in USA skies, including calling for deregulation and eliminating "archaic airline ownership and control rules" that restrict foreign investors to 25% control and 49% equity of USA airlines. Frances Farrow, (CEO) of Virgin USA (VUS) pointed out, however, that (VAA) is strictly in the planning stages, exploring all possibilities.

April 2003: Selected Mercator, a division of the Emirates (EAD) Group, is to provide the implementation consultancy services essential to its rollout of Oracle's E-Business Suite.

7,800 employees.

May 2003: Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 Pre-Tax = +$16.1 Million (-$148 Million).

To Grenada and Tobago as part of 60% expansion of capacity to the Caribbean.

Sir Richard Branson, (VAA)'s founder reiterated his offer to rescue the Concorde supersonic jet fleet that British Airways (BAB) plans to retire in the fall.

Virgin Group (CEO) Sir Richard Branson purchases Makepeace Island, near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland for Virgin staff world wide to share. The island will be developed into an eco-tourism retreat for staff and will be opened within 12 months.

(VAA) becomes the 30th member of the Association of European Airlines (AEA).

July 2003: Unveils a new # 50 Million Pounds/$80 Million, Upper Class, cabin makeover, the centerpiece of which is what it describes as a "revolutionary new seat bed" that provides separate sitting & sleeping surfaces. "Instead of extending from a seat into a bed, (VAA)'s seat provides the passenger with a luxury leather armchair to relax on, which then flips over into a separate bed with a mattress to sleep on." The beds will be installed in all 747-400's & A340-600's beginning this summer, with completion by fall 2004. They are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, and (VAA) claims the seats are 2 inches wider than the 1st-class (F) seats offered "by 23 major airlines," including its chief rival British Airways (BAB). At 79.5 inches, the bed is "the longest in any class." London-based design consultancy, PearsonLloyd collaborated with (VAA)'s in-house team to define the seat design from "the innovation (VAA) and "Design Q" had established." (VAA) has applied for a patent for the design. The revamped Upper Class also features new colors and materials, a private bar in an area "discrete from the cabin," and personal (IFE) units with a screen diameter of 10.4 inches.

Richard Branson plans to launch "a quality low-cost airline" in the USA by the end June 2004, beginning with 10 to 15 airplanes. Under present USA law, Branson will be limited to a 25% voting stake in any USA airline. Although Norman Mineta, USA Transportation Secretary has proposed raising the limit to 49%, this would require a change to the present law.

Code share with Singapore Airlines (SIA)), Singapore to Manchester (777-200ER, All-(Y), 5x-weekly).

August 2003: Code share with Singapore Airlines (SIA) to Australia. Manchester to Barbados delayed until December 2003.

2002 Pre-tax = +# 15.7 Million Pounds/+$25.3 Million (-92.6 Million P): 3.9 Million Passengers (PAX) (4.09 Million PAX). Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA)'s "fantastic staff" will share a bonus of 5 Million Pounds.

A340-642 (371, G-VGOA "Indian Princess") delivery.

September 2003: 2002 = 27.00 Billion (RPK) traffic (-4.9%); -10.2% (ASK) capacity; 80.6% LF Load Factor (+4.4); 3.8 Million Passengers (PAX) (-7.3%); 894 Million (FTK) Freight Traffic (-6.1%); 7,393 Employees (-7.2%).

20 (IBE) 40.47; 21 (MAS) 37.65; 22 (AMW) 32.00; 23 (EAD) 31.66; 24 (ALI) 30.03; 25 (GUN) 28.94; 26 (VAA) 27.00; 27 (CHI) 26.81; 28 (VAR) 26.12; 29 (BEJ) 24.00; 30 (SAS) 23.21.

October 2003: London Gatwick to New Orleans and London (LHR) to San Juan for cruise traffic.

747-41R (32746, G-VROC "Mustang Sally") & A340-642 (376, G-VATL "Atlantic Angel") deliveries.

November 2003: (EDS) signed contract with Virgin Atlantic (VAA) under which (EDS) will provide "enhanced passenger planning systems." Includes providing (EDS) Shares & Distributed Load Planning Systems, its multi-host passenger reservations & inventory control systems for the next 6 years.

In March 2004, London Gatwick (LGW) to Las Vegas (747-400, 28F "Upper Class," 38C "Premium Economy," & 373Y "Economy," 4x-weekly).

December 2003: Is awarded 5th freedom rights for London Heathrow to Hong Kong to Sydney. In summer 2004, will start London Heathrow to Sydney with a 2-hour stopover in Hong Kong (A340-600, daily). As the route builds up, it hopes to eventually use the A380.

Emirates (EAD) Mercator Information Technology (IT) division provided consultancy support to Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) in the implementation of several Oracle resource planning solutions, including Oracle Financials, Oracle (HRMS), and Oracle Payroll.

January 2004: Linda Moir, Head of Cabin Services.

Is considering adding weekly services London Heathrow (LHR) to Bangalore & Hyderabad.

February 2004: Expands its code share with Singapore Airlines (SIA) to its Manchester to Orlando route.

(PMA) parts management contract with McKechnie.

March 2004: Plans for +2 A340-600's as part of 2005 aggressive expansion plans include new routes from London to Australia, Cuba and the Bahamas.

In July 2005, London Gatwick (LGW) to Havana (2x-weekly), and (LGW) to Nassau (weekly), bringing total number of destinations it serves to 25.

In next 12 months, to recruit +1,400 staff with mainly operations including 700 cabin crew (CA) and flight crew 370 (FC) at both Heathrow and Gatwick. +300 new staff expected at (VAA) HQ in office-based positions.

Contracted for (ARINC)'s wide-area network service MUSE link. (VAA) will use the new managed (IP) service immediately to "enhance data communications with 3 of its global passenger handling operations." Under the 2-year contract, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will receive fully managed service for its passenger installations at Tokyo Narita, Murtala Muhammad International in Lagos, and Grantley Adams International in Barbados.

April 2004: A340-642 (575, G-VEIL) delivery.

May 2004: Defers delivery of A380's from June 2006 to February 2008. Expects to use them on London Heathrow (LHR) to Los Angeles (LAX) & New York (JFK).

Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 = +15.7 Million Pounds/+$37.17 Million (+$25.19 Million): 26.93 Billion (RPK) traffic (-.3%); 75.6% LF Load Factor; 3.85 Million Passengers (PAX) (+1.1%); 1.02 Billion (FTK) Freight Traffic (+13.8%).

+2 orders (October 2005) A340-600 (Trent 556), (ILF) 12 year leased.

June 2004: To introduce an amphibious limousine service for its Upper Class passengers travelling between London Heathrow and London. The service will be operated this summer using the new Gibbs Aquada amphibious vehicle. Sir Richard Branson, Chairman stated "Just as with our existing limos, those passengers travelling by Gibbs Aquada will be met off their flights by a chauffeur, who will drive them to their home, hotel or office. But unlike other limos, when the Gibbs Aquada hits traffic on its way to or from central London, the driver simply heads for the nearest slipway and takes to the Thames river before rejoining the roads on the final leg of the passenger's journey."

In October 2004, code share (including reciprocal frequent flier program) with South African Airways (SAA), London to Johannesburg with connections to (SAA)'s destinations: Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mpumulanga, & Pilanesburg. In December 2004, London Heathrow (LHR) to Sydney, via Hong Kong (A340-600, 45F, 28C, 233Y, daily).

(EADS) Sogerma Services, Toulouse, is installing a new Upper Class Suite on Virgin Atlantic (VAA)'s A340-600's under a major upgrade program.

South African Airways (SAA) is facing 2 lawsuits amounting to # ZAR 275 Million/$46 Million over allegations that it conspired to take control of Sun Air (SUQ) to prevent Virgin Atlantic (VAA) from buying it, then deliberately put it out of business.

August 2004: America West (AMW) gets OK from USA Department of Transportation (DOT) for code share partnership with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), including connections to (VAA) services to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Washington Dulles to (AMW) services from Phoenix, Las Vegas, and San Diego.

Began offering language learning courses as part of its in-flight entertainment system. Has teamed with Linguaphone to offer the courses, which teach passenger to understand and speak a new language by listening with no need for written material.

13/13 orders (February 2006) A340-642.

September 2004: Virgin Group (VAA) was selected by the Nigerian goverment as a partner in a new Nigerian airline to be named Virgin Nigeria Airlines (VNA), stated Musa Yuguda, Nigerian Aviation Minister. The new airline which is to be launched in October 2004 has an initial planned equity of $50 Million. Nigerian institutional investors and the general public are expected to hold 51%, with Virgin (VAA) holding the remaining 49%. (VAA) is regarded as a technical and strategic investor to the national carrier. Initially, it will concentrate on popular domestic and international routes, then will add regional routes around West Africa in a 2nd phase. Simon Harford is the (CEO), Virgin Nigeria.

November 2004: In February 2005, London Heathrow to Mumbai (A340-300, daily).

December 2004: Hong Kong to Sydney (A340-600, 45F, 28C, 233Y, daily). In April 2005, code share with Virgin Blue (VOZ) on this Sydney service as well as beyond sectors to Brisbane, Melbourne, & Coolangatta.

The (UKCAA) maintained British Airways (BAB)'s dominance in the UK to India market by allocating to (BAB) a 3rd of the 21 new frequencies available under the recent bilateral agreement between the 2 countries. (BAB) currently operates all 19x-weekly services available to UK airlines, while Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) was allotted 10x- and bmi (BMA) 4x-. In summer 2005, (BAB) will add 4x-weekly flights to Chennai & inaugurate 3x-weekly service to Bangalore. Rod Eddington, (CEO) stated "(BAB) is looking forward to increasing flights to Chennai & starting services to Bangalore, but they would like to operate more flights to India and (BAB) was "disappointed" because it had requested +21 extra frequencies." (VAA) currently operates 3/week to Delhi under a commercial agreement with Air India (AIN) and now will operate to Delhi (7x-weekly) immediately, with daily services in February 2005, and also in February 2005 to Mumbai (3x-weekly).

April 2005: INCDT: A340-600, Flight VS900 from London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita on April 23, 2005, departed with its center-of-gravity slightly forward of Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA)'s limits, after an outsourced central load-planning facility mistakenly generated an incorrect loadsheet for the flight. After learning of the error during the flight, the crew repositioned some of the 200 passengers to shift the center-of-gravity further aft. The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said (VAA) has suffered "an abnormally high frequency" of loading errors since mid-2004 and had "not given necessary priority" to loading issues. It listed 8 other instances of incorrect loadsheets being generated for A340's & 747's; more than half of these were not detected before departure, although the flights stayed within balance limits. Incorrect loading also resulted in an in-flight "excess aft center-of-gravity" warning to the crew of a transatlantic A340 on June 7, 2004. "Incorrect weight and center-of-gravity can have very serious consequences and should be given a high degree of importance in terms of staffing, training, monitoring, and auditing," said the (AAIB). (VAA) has improved its procedures as a result, particularly concerning its interface with the central load-planning facility, the facility's data transfer process, and monitoring by turnaround co-ordination personnel. (VAA) stressed that the loading error in this incident was "well within" the airplane's design tolerance and added: "The safety and welfare of our passengers and crew is our top priority and at no point during this flight were passengers at risk." The (AAIB) has not made any supplemental safety recommendations to (VAA), satisfied that it is already taking action to address this issue.

May 2005: 2004 Pre-tax = + 68 Million Pounds/+$124 MILLION (+20.9 Million Pounds): 4.4 Million passengers (+29.4%); 8,118 employees (7,519).

In 2006, to Dubai and Montego Bay.

A340-642 (639, G-VGAS), delivery.

June 2005: Plans to recruit +1,500 staff over the next 18 months to support its expansion plans. 1,000 are new positions with the rest just normal turnover of staff. Currently employs 8,500 world wide.

Launched services to Cuba and the Bahamas. In summer, will increase frequencies to Shanghai, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Port Harcourt. New routes are expected to Dubai and Jamaica in 2006.

By the end of 2006, (VAA) is scheduled to take delivery of 7 A340-600's, taking its fleet to 39.

A340-311 (013, G-VBUS), wet-leased to Virgin Nigeria (VNA).

September 2005: UK and India officially signed a bilateral air services treaty replacing the one dating to 1951. The bilateral formalizes new traffic rights that will allow UK airlines to operate 56 services per week between London Heathrow and Delhi or Mumbai, 14x-weekly services from the UK to Bangalore and to Chennai and 7x-weekly services to each or any other destination in India by the end of next year. Indian airlines can operate a similar number of services on routes between Heathrow and Delhi or Mumbai and may provide unlimited service to other UK destinations. In addition, the agreement provides for unlimited cargo services.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) increased its direct service from Las Vegas to London from 5x- to 6x-weekly from September 9.

(CAE) signed a 10-year agreement with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) to provide training for pilots (FC) of (VAA)'s fleet of A340-600s and 747-400s. Initially valued at 28 million pounds/$50 million, the contract includes an option for A380 training. If all options are exercised, the total contract value could amount to 43 million pounds over 10 years. The training, which includes instructional delivery for ground school as well as simulator training, will take place at (CAE)'s Burgess Hill center in the UK. Existing A340-600 and 747-400 simulators will be redeployed from other locations by summer 2006.

October 2005: A340-642 (706, G-VWKD), (ILF) leased, delivery.

November 2005: Virgin (VAA) Group purchased 10,000 doses of Tamiflu for its staff and is looking into new technologies to combat germs aboard airplanes in anticipation of an avian flu pandemic, which "will most certainly affect the airline industry," according to Chairman Richard Branson.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) inaugurated service from Manchester to Barbados last Sunday. (VAA) now operates a weekly flight using the 747-400.

December 2005: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will inaugurate service from Manchester to St Lucia on November 16th. The weekly flight will operate on Thursdays with a 747-400.

Virgin Galactic, the British company created by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, (VAA) Chairman to send tourists into space, and the state of New Mexico, USA, signed an agreement to build a $225 Million spaceport in the south of the state, 25 miles south of the town of "Truth or Consequences" near the White Sands Missile Range. The construction of the spaceport, to be built largely (90%) underground, could begin in early 2007, depending on approval from environmental and aviation authorities.

Virgin (VAA) will have a 20-year lease on the facility, with annual payments of $1 Million for the 1st 5 years and rising to cover the cost of the project by the end of the lease.

Up to 38,000 people from 126 countries have paid a deposit for a seat on one of the manned commercial flights, including a core group of 100 "founders" who have paid the initial $200,000 cost of a flight up front. Virgin Galactic is planning to begin flights in late 2008 or early 2009. Stephen Attenborough is the Virgin Galactic executive in charge of marketing the space flights.

Branson formed Virgin Galactic after watching SpaceShipOne (SS1), a craft designed by Burt Rutan and funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, became the 1st privately manned rocket to reach space last year. (SS1) went on to win the $10 Million Ansari X Prize with 2 suborbital flights in 5 days from Mojave, California, USA.

Virgin Galactic has a deal with Rutan to build 5 spacecraft, licensing technology from Allen's company, Mojave Aerospace Ventures.

January 2006: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) service increases from London include: To Mumbai from 3x-weekly to daily, to Shanghai from 6x-weekly to daily, to Cape Town from 2x-weekly to 3x-weekly through January 25 and to daily between January 29 and March 25. It also will add a 5x-weekly flight to Las Vegas in July and a 6x- in September.

American Airlines (AAL) and United Airlines (UAL) are objecting to British Airport Authority (BAA)'s handling of the ongoing fuel shortage situation at London Heathrow (LHR) caused by the Buncefield oil depot fire last month. The carriers state that (BAA)'s rationing policy is "blatantly discriminatory" because "so-called 'base' carriers at (LHR), including British Airways (BAB) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA)" are provided with 82% of their fuel requirements for long-haul services, while "so-called 'visiting' carriers" including (AAL) and (UAL), receive only 70% of their requirements. As a result, (AAL) and (UAL) have to tanker fuel, resulting in additional expenses of approximately $20,000 per day for (AAL) and $15,000 per day for (UAL). Each gallon of fuel tankered across the Atlantic requires about one-third gallons in extra fuel burn. The policy violates the Bermuda 2 bilateral between the USA and UK, the carriers allege, and they have asked the USA Department of Transportation (DOT) to withhold action on an application by Scotland-based Globespan Airways (dba Flyglobespan) (FGC) to operate between the USA and UK until (BAA) changes its policy.

A340-642 (723, G-VHIP "Soul Sister"), delivery.

February 2006: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will increase the frequency on its London Heathrow to New York (JFK) route from 3 to 4 flights a day from July 1st. The new flight is an 1800 departure from Heathrow and will operate with an A340-600. The other 3 flights operate with an A340-300, A340-600 and 747-400. The airline also operate 2 daily flights to Newark, one with an A340-300 and one with a 747-400.

A340-642 (736, G-VWIN "Lady Luck"), (ILF) leased.

March 2006: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) opened a new £11 million/$19.2 million, 8,000-sq ft club lounge at London Heathrow, that features a spa pool, cinema, salon, rooftop garden, game room and other facilities and amenities. The architect was Softroom of London.

Finnair (FIN) signed a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) for acquisition of an A340-300 in July.

April 2006: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) committed itself to capturing more business and premium traffic with its announcement of a three-year "global growth plan" that it expects to produce a +10% increase in business travelers in the coming year. It will add services on popular business routes, including a fourth daily London Heathrow (LHR) - New York (JFK) flight, and launch a Dubai service. All routes soon will feature the carrier's Upper Class Suite, which will include access to its new Clubhouse lounge, opened recently at (LHR), limousine service to and from the airport, inflight massage and other amenities. The growth plan also includes new seating in premium economy and economy cabins and a more efficient check-in and boarding process at Heathrow's Terminal 3. The airline said more details will be released later this year. "With a private member's club on the ground and a private suite in the air, we're delivering exactly what our passengers have been asking for," CEO, Steve Ridgway said. "We have no doubt that we will become the airline of choice for the long-haul business traveler."

Symbol Technologies and partner Peak Technologies were chosen by Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) to supply (RFID) technology as part of a pilot project to track "high value" airplane spare and replacement parts moving through its logistics supply chain at London Heathrow. According to Symbol, Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) is the first UK airline to use (RFID) technology to track parts onsite.

Avient Solutions said its Avient Gate Agent entered operation at London Heathrow and is used by British Airways (BAB), (SAS), Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), and United Airlines (UAL). Gate Agent is part of Avient's Passenger Management solution that includes (FIDS) and Check-in Agent.

Lufthansa (DLH) Systems (LHS), NavAero and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) signed a contract to equip the carrier's entire fleet with a full-service Class 2 electronic flight bag (EFB) solution. NavAero will provide its tBagC2-2 (EFB) computer and display hardware and (LHS) will supply its SkyBook (EFB) solution. Project work is already well underway and the first Virgin Atlantic (VAA) flight with the SkyBook/tBagC2-2 (EFB) onboard, is scheduled to take off in December.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) launched four-times-weekly flights between London Heathrow and Dubai using A340-600 and A340-300 airplanes. Frequency will rise to daily from June 1. Dubai is Virgin's first Middle East destination.

May 2006: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) increased its London Gatwick - Las Vegas 747-400 service to daily from May 6.

A340-642 (753, G-VFIT "Dancing Queen"), (ILF) leased.

June 2006: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) reported a pre-tax profit of +£41.6 million/+$75.6 million for the fiscal year ended February 28, more than double the +£20.1 million earned a year ago, a jump it attributed to a "large increase" in business passengers at primary subsidiary Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA). The company, also parent to Virgin Nigeria Airways (VSN) and tour operator Virgin Holidays, posted annual revenues of £1.91 billion, up +17.2% from £1.63 billion in the previous fiscal year.

Virgin (VAA) said premium-paying passengers, who increased +10.1% over the prior year, provided a big earnings boost. "The profits came despite a tougher operating environment, with a +30% increase in fuel costs over the year and continuing overcapacity on some routes, especially between the UK and the North Atlantic," it said in a statement. Virgin Atlantic (VAA) and Virgin Nigeria (VSN) carried a combined 4.9 million passengers for the year, up +11%.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) plans to continue expanding its services, adding a fourth daily London Heathrow (LHR)- New York (JFK) flight on July 1 and a second daily (LHR) - Hong Kong flight from February 2007 - - it will operate a second flight four-times-weekly on the route from November 2006. It will launch (LHR) - Montego Bay service July 3 and plans to begin operating twice-weekly 747-400 flights between London Gatwick and Mauritius on Mondays & Fridays, from November 2007. Montego Bay and Mauritius will become the 27th and 28th destinations in its network.

Meanwhile, the airline provided no more details on the UK - USA price-fixing investigation of British Airways (BAB), that reportedly was triggered by a tip-off from Virgin (VAA). "We are fully cooperating with the authorities. We are assisting them," Virgin Atlantic (VAA) CEO, Steve Ridgway told BBC Monday. "I suspect this will go on a long time and that is really all I am at liberty to say at the moment."

A high-profile USA law firm filed a class-action suit against (BAB) and Virgin (VAA) on June 23, following press reports of the UK - USA probe. The lawsuit accuses the airlines of engaging in a "global conspiracy" to fix prices on long-haul flights to and from the UK.

Under UK law, a company engaged in unfair trading practices can be fined up to 10% of its total revenues. (BAB)'s revenues for the fiscal year ended March 31 were £8.5 billion/$15.6 billion, meaning its maximum levy would be £850 million. Individual executives involved in price-fixing also could be fined and receive a prison sentence of up to five years.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) said its entire fleet will be equipped by 2009 with Tempus, a telemedicine device that uses satellite technology to transmit information regarding ill or injured passengers to medical professionals at the MedAire Center in Phoenix, so diagnosis can be made and expert advice given to flight crews (FC).

July 2006: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) is UK's 2nd-largest airline, serving some of the world's major cities from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and Manchester airports.

7,479 employees.

(IATA) Code: VS - 932. (ICAO) Code: VIR (Callsign - VIRGIN).

Parent organization/shareholders: Virgin Group (51%); & Singapore Airlines (SIA) (49%).

Owns: Virgin Nigeria Airways (VNU) (49%).

Alliances: bmi (BMA); Continental Airlines (CAL); Nationwide Airlines (NWR); Singapore Airlines (SIA); South African Airways (SAA); US Airways (AMW)/(USA); & Virgin Blue (VOZ).

Main Base: London Heathrow airport (LHR).

Hub: London Gatwick airport (LGW).

International, Scheduled Destinations: Antigua; Boston; Bridgetown; Cape Town; Delhi; Dubai; Grenada; Havana; Hong Kong; Johannesburg; Lagos; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; Mumbai; Nassau; New York; Newark; Orlando; San Francisco; Shanghai; Singapore; St Lucia; Sydney; Tobago; Tokyo; & Washington.

July 2006: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) has announced that it will launch a direct flight between London and Mauritius starting next year. This new service will bring the airline’s total number of destinations to twenty-eight by November 2007. Services between London's Gatwick airport and Mauritius will operate twice a week on Mondays and Fridays on a 747-400 airplane from November 2007.

Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic (VAA), says “due to an overwhelming demand from leisure passengers, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will be expanding to Mauritius next year. This new route shows that we are continuing to build a long-haul network with the ideal mix of business and leisure routes for today’s traveller. This beautiful island will be our first entry into the Indian Ocean and the launch of services will lead to increased competition, better value for money and quality of service.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) inaugurated nonstop service from London Gatwick to Montego Bay. The airline now operates 2 flights a week, on Mondays & Wednesdays, using a 747-400.

Travelport, formerly Cendant Travel Distribution Services, signed a multiyear distribution agreement with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA)making the airline's full content available on the Galileo Global Distribution System (GDS) as well as Orbitz and CheapTickets.

A340-642 (764, G-VFIZ), delivery.

August 2006: Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) launched interline e-ticketing last week. The airlines already codeshare and have linked loyalty programs and a joint lounge arrangement.

Virgin (VAA) launched a route-specific inflight magazine called "DXB" available to passengers on flights between London Heathrow and Dubai.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) is introducing a new inflight texting service allowing passengers to send a question via their seatback In Flight Entertainment (IFE) and receive an answer within minutes. The new feature, dubbed AQA (Any Question Answered), will be offered in cooperation with "IssueBits" of London.

Lufthansa (DLH) Systems signed a contract with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) to provide the UK carrier with its ProfitLine/Price Information Technology (IT) pricing solution.

A340-642 (765, G-VYOU "Emmeline Heaney"), delivery.

September 2006: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) banned Apple and Dell laptop computer batteries from international flights following last month's recall of 1.8 million batteries by Dell as possible fire hazards. Virgin (VAA) passengers must remove the batteries from the computer, wrap them and place them in carry-on bags, reported the BBC. Passengers can use the computers sans batteries in flight if seats are equipped with electrical sockets and can transport two of the batteries in a carry-on bag. Korean Air (KAL) and Qantas (QAN) also have placed restrictions on laptop batteries in response to the recall.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) is now providing passengers with "live text news" from Sky News on seatback television screens.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will upgrade the equipment on its London Heathrow to Johannesburg daily nonstop service from an A340-600 to a 747-400 starting on December 1st through January 31st.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) Chairman, Richard Branson urged the air transport industry to "accelerate the pace at which we reduce aviation's impact on the environment" and called for the creation of a new system of airplane departures to help address the problem.

"We cannot ignore that aviation does create environmental problems (around 2% of global CO2 emissions), although equally it produces significant economic and social benefits (8% of the world's GDP)," Branson said in a letter addressed to the heads of other major airlines, engine and airframe manufacturers and airport operators and discussed in a speech in New York.

"At the heart" of his vision is the creation of "starting grids" for all airplane departures, located close to the runway and consisting of several parking stands. An airplane would be towed from the gate to the grid and only then would it start its engines, "approximately 10 minutes before takeoff." The system would be reversed upon landing, with airplanes taxiing to the grid, killing their engines and waiting for a tug for the trip to the gate.

According to Branson, "the system would make airport movements much more efficient and would reduce fuel consumption and on-the-ground carbon emissions by over 50% ahead of takeoff at London's Heathrow Airport for Virgin Atlantic (VAA) airplanes, and by nearly 90% for Virgin Atlantic (VAA) flights at (JFK) Airport. It would also mean that an airplane flying from (JFK) to Heathrow could carry around 2 tonnes less weight in the air, which would mean that the amount of fuel burned would be considerably less, reducing CO2 emissions even further."

Among other strategies he urged is widespread adoption of "continuous descent" approaches by air traffic control authorities. Last week, Virgin Group (VAA) announced plans to invest $3 billion in renewable energy initiatives over the next eight years.

October 2006: Air France (AFA) Industries announced that Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) chose it to provide total flight hour component support including access to a spares pool for eight A340s until 2016.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) reached agreement with Airbus (EDS) to defer delivery of its six A380s on firm order to 2013. The planes originally were scheduled to arrive in 2009, but (EDS) production delays likely would have pushed back delivery. Terms of the deferral were not disclosed. (VAA) said it extended leases on several 747-400s to compensate. (EDS) said the A380 will have "proven" itself, by the time (VAA) takes delivery and noted that the deferral will help it "prioritize" deliveries for launch customers.

A340-642 (768, G-VRED), delivery.

November 2006: The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in a move that likely will have more of a symbolic effect than a practical one, yesterday announced it will stop regulating long-haul fares after 30 years "because of greater competition in the airline market."

The (CAA) said that in recent years it has focused on "a very small subset of fares on a shrinking number of mainly long-haul routes . . . paid by what the (CAA) perceived to be 'captive' passengers," such as those working for a small business or traveling due to an emergency.

Regulation will be discontinued in two stages. Long-haul routes other than UK - USA will be deregulated on December 1, while UK - USA routes will be deferred "until other pricing restrictions in the UK - USA market are removed."

Those restrictions, applied by the (CAA) on behalf of the UK Department for Transport, limit airlines' ability to offer fares to the USA via an intermediate point that are lower than those available on direct UK - USA services, thus protecting carriers denied access to the USA. "The availability of such lower-price indirect alternatives is a key element in the (CAA)'s reasoning for removing regulation, and so the (CAA) believes the current UK - USA scenario justified deferral for now," it said.

The agency said that approximately 40 routes were subject to possible regulation this year, about half of them UK - USA. Regulation was confined to fully flexible economy fares "where airlines generally have the least incentive to compete on price." Those fares now will be deregulated on flights to Russia, Egypt, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, and Brazil.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) argued that the UK - USA regulations also should be removed immediately, saying there is "little if any connection between the sum-of-sector policy and . . . regulation of the flexible economy fare," according to the (CAA). The body maintained there is a connection, citing as an example how direct carriers' adherence to a Saturday-night-stay condition on most UK - USA economy (Y) fares has limited the alternatives to the (Y2) fare more so than in other markets.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) launched weekly (on Thursdays)Manchester - St Lucia service aboard a 747-400. (VAA) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) expanded their codeshare agreement to cover Virgin (VAA)'s flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to the UK and Dubai beginning December 1 and (SIA)'s service between London Heathrow and Singapore, via Sydney from January 1.

December 2006: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will launch a daily London Heathrow (LHR) - Chicago O'Hare (ORD) service on April 23 and a second daily (LHR) - Washington Dulles flight from April 24. (ORD) will become (VAA)'s 28th destination and 10th in the USA. Both new flights will be operated with 240-seat A340-300s.

(VAA) will discontinue 747-400 service to the Bahamas, when it ends flights from London to Nassau on March 17th.

(VAA) will launch daily London Heathrow - Nairobi service on June 1 aboard a 240-seat A340-300.

SR Technics (SWS) was selected by (VAA) to reconfigure five 747-400s. The project includes an extension to the existing premium cabin, installation of new premium economy seats and new storage areas. Work is expected to be completed in November 2007.

A340-642 (787, G-VWEB), delivery.

February 2007: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) reached agreement with Airbus (EDS) to reschedule delivery of the remaining six A340-600s it has on order, the carrier confirmed. In August 2004, it placed an order for an additional 13 A340-600s with options for a further 13. "We were due to take delivery of another six A340-600s over the next two years, but we have stretched this out over the next four years," Communications Director, Paul Charles said. "We have opted for a more balanced approach to our growth." The airline now is planning on average a +10% growth in capacity for the coming years instead of +20%. He also said it remains committed to the A380, of which it has six on order. "We still believe it's a great airplane and are looking forward to see it enter service with our [49%] shareholder Singapore Airlines (SIA)," he said. Delivery of Virgin Atlantic (VAA)'s A380s has been pushed back to 2013 from the originally scheduled 2009.

March 2007: Starting October 29th, London Gatwick (LGW) - Mauritius, using 747-400s.

Boeing (TBC) added 46 orders to its backlog including 27 airplanes for unidentified customers: Six 747-8s (understood to be 747-8F freighters), six 777s (understood to be 777-300ERs for Virgin Blue (VOZ)) and 15 787s. There is informed opinion from London sources that the 787 order came from Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), which has been moving rapidly toward a green platform. The carrier recently deferred its remaining six A340-600s and those slots have been taken by Lufthansa (DLH). (VAA) also deferred its order for six A380s with first delivery slated for 2013. Two analysts in London said they would be surprised if the airline took either deferred commitment. "Branson's going all green and for twin engines," one claimed.

The USA and European airlines largely hailed the (EU) transport ministers' approval of the "open skies" agreement, though British Airways (BAB) and (VAA) led a chorus on the European side cautioning that the deal is just a "first step" toward creation of a truly open transatlantic air market by 2010. (IATA) (ITA) Director General, Giovanni Bisignani called the agreement "a step in the right direction," but added that "it's time to set aggressive targets to create even more opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic." The Assn of European Airlines (AEA) Secretary General, Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus said it "establishes a framework which includes, but goes beyond, market opportunities . . . but it is only a first step towards the ultimate goal." Air Transport Assn President & CEO, James May said the deal has the "potential to provide enormous benefits to our respective customers and economies."
Much attention is being focused on London Heathrow (LHR), where transatlantic operations currently are limited to (BAB), Virgin (VAA), American Airlines (AAL), and United Airlines (UAL). "Access to Heathrow (LHR) for USA airlines is at the heart" of the deal, (BAB) CEO, Willie Walsh said. He encouraged the UK government to "stand by its right of automatic termination of traffic rights" and employ that power "if America doesn't play ball" by negotiating further liberalization. (LHR) was the (EU)'s "most valuable negotiating asset," Walsh insisted. With that chip "given away," it is "naive" to think the USA will pursue greater freedoms, including more USA market access for (EU) carriers by 2010, he added. According to the Official Airline Guide (OAG), (BAB) operated 44% of transatlantic flights in and out of (LHR) March 1 to 19, with (AAL) at 16%, Virgin (VAA) at 14%, and United (UAL) at 11%. (AAL) and (UAL) have said they support open skies even though it may hurt them in the short term in London. Continental Airlines (CAL) already has applied to the USA Department of Transportation (DOT) for permission to launch service from Houston Intercontinental to (LHR) before summer 2008. Bmi (BMA) CEO, Nigel Turner called the agreement's approval "a brave move in the face of stiff opposition from the two UK airlines that have for years enjoyed a protected transatlantic market from Heathrow."

The International Air Carriers Association (IACA) Director General, Sylviane Lust said the agreement is imbalanced in the USA carriers' favor: "The [EU's] shopping list for the second phase negotiations remains substantial while the USA side has obtained everything it wanted in the first phase."

April 2007: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will launch twice-weekly London Gatwick - Plaisance, Mauritius, service on October 29 aboard a 747-400.

(VAA) Chairman, Richard Branson and Boeing (TBC) CEO, James McNerney are expected to unveil a partnership to begin testing biofuel in a 747 next year.

15 orders (February 2011) 787-9s Dreamliners, plus options for an additional eight and purchase rights on another 20. The (VAA) order is worth approximately $2.8 billion at list prices, or up to $8 billion if all options and purchase rights are exercised. (VAA) said it has not selected an engine yet, but indicated the airplane will enable it to expand its long-haul network to cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Seattle, Vancouver, Bangkok, and Melbourne.

The agreement includes an "environmental partnership" between airline and manufacturer, that covers a biofuel demonstration on a (VAA) 747-400 next year. The project, which also will involve (GE) Aviation, will be the first of its kind, according to the carrier, and is aimed at developing "sustainable fuel sources suitable for commercial jet engines." Further details will be unveiled later this year. The partnership involves cutting emissions on the ground as well and will build on Boeing (TBC)'s work with Virgin (VAA) to cut taxi time through towing at London Heathrow and Gatwick and San Francisco.

May 2007: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) said free Wi-Fi Internet connections will be available in all its Upper Class Clubhouse airport lounges by year end. Presently, free Wi-Fi service exists in lounges at London Heathrow, Gatwick, New York (JFK), Washington Dulles, and Hong Kong. The service is being extended to airport lounges in Tokyo, Boston, Newark, San Francisco and Johannesburg.

Air Jamaica (JAM) will drop its Kingston - London Heathrow (LHR) route, on which it reportedly was losing -$20 to -$25 million annually, and sold its (LHR) landing and takeoff slots to (VAA), according to media reports out of London and Jamaica. (VAA) beat out rival British Airways (BAB) to replace Air Jamaica (JAM)'s (LHR) - Kingston service, and will operate two weekly flights on the route beginning this fall. (VAA) currently operates two weekly London Gatwick (LGW) - Montego Bay flights and will continue that service. It will place the Air Jamaica (JAM) code on its flights and jointly sell seats on the routes with the Caribbean carrier. (BAB) operates thrice-weekly (LHR) - Kingston service, but reportedly was seeking to add flights and codeshare with Air Jamaica (JAM).

June 2007: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) revealed that it intends to launch a business class (C)-only carrier within the next 12 to 18 months. In a first stage, the new airline will fly transatlantic routes to the USA from London, and other European cities, including Paris, Frankfurt, Milan and Zurich. Direct flights from points throughout the (EU) to the USA will be possible under the new "open skies" regime, that will take effect March 30, 2008. Virgin (VAA) did not say which airplanes it would use to operate the flights. British Airways (BAB) indicated last month, that it was considering an all-business-class (C) product, to compete with Eos (EOS), MAXjet (MXJ), and Silverjet (SVJ), which offer business class (C)-only service linking London to the USA.

July 2007: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) appointed Steve Griffiths Director Engineering.

August 2007: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) reported that its profit for its fiscal year ended February 28 dropped -89% to +£6.6 million/+$13.2 million from +£60.3 million in the prior year. It blamed much of the fall on losses at Virgin Nigeria (VNA), in which it has a 49% stake. The African carrier posted a loss of -£40 million for the year, widened from -£33 million in the prior year. (VAA)'s revenue increased +15% to £2.2 billion. "Our profits would have been higher had it not been for the frustrating external issues many airlines have had to cope with, such as increased oil prices," parent Virgin (VAA) Group Chairman, Richard Branson said.

Fresh from his trip to the USA for the launch of Virgin America (VUS), Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) Chairman, Richard Branson was in Kuala Lumpur to announce that his Virgin (VAA) Group purchased a 20% share of Malaysia's FlyAsianExpress, which will operate low-cost, long-haul flights as AirAsia X (ASX). Price of the stake was not disclosed. (ASX) expects to launch service next month. The airline has three A330s on lease and has ordered 10 396-seat A330-300s plus five options. Recently, it announced that it has secured rights to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne's Avalon Airport - - home of Low Cost Carrier (LCC) Jetstar Airways (IMU) - - and London Stansted. Chairman, Kalimullah Hassan told reporters he expected to launch Australian service at the end of September. No other destinations or details were revealed.

Branson said he believed AirAsia (ASW)'s success would be replicated by AirAsia X (ASX) in the long-haul market. "I am thrilled to be able to support them in this venture and look forward to seeing low-cost, long-haul travel being opened up from their base in Malaysia," he said.

Interestingly, Singapore Airlines (SIA), which may one day find itself competing with AirAsia X (ASX), holds a 49% stake in Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA).

Virgin Group (VG) executives revealed that the firm, which except for a brief period in the 1980s has eschewed selling stakes via public markets, is now considering Initial Public Offerings (IPO)s for some of its business units, including Virgin Atlantic Airways VAA). (VG) CEO, Stephen Murphy told "The Times of London," "Once we have built a company to a point where it has reached a level of stability and maturity, we will seek a public exit. We are much more comfortable with that idea now but there are no firm targets of how many businesses we want to float." Virgin Atlantic (VAA) confirmed that an (IPO) is possible, noting that (VG) could buy back Singapore Airlines (SIA)'s 49% holding in the carrier before putting it on the market. It is believed (VG) would keep a controlling stake in the airline.

The move would be a change in strategy for Chairman, Richard Branson, who listed (VG) shares publicly in 1986, but repurchased them after less than two years and has spoken of the pitfalls of public ownership. Murphy said (VG) would consider selling stakes to private equity firms as well.

September 2007: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) said it will nearly double the number of premium economy seats in its London Heathrow-based 747 fleet to 62 from 32 currently, in response to "surging passenger demand."

October 2007: The UK and Singapore concluded a significant aviation services agreement that removes all restrictions on flights operated by airlines of both countries, and includes beyond and domestic rights in the UK. The deal was reached almost two decades after Singapore first proposed it. The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation said the deal "virtually guarantees Singapore Airlines (SIA) will jettison its [49%] stake in Virgin Atlantic (VAA) and mount additional services to Heathrow and beyond to the USA in a staged manner from March 2008, when the UK-Singapore agreement takes effect."

(VAA) plans to conduct a 747 biofuel test flight next year, parent Virgin (VAA) Group Chairman, Richard Branson said. At a recent appearance in Amsterdam and again during a speech in Boston, he said that (VAA) will "early next year . . . fly one of our 747s without passengers with [an alternative fuel] we have developed." No other details were revealed. (VAA) has said in the past, that it is working with Boeing (TBC) and (GE) to develop biofuels. Air New Zealand (ANZ), Boeing (TBC) and Rolls-Royce (RR), signed a Memo of Understanding (MOU) last month, to conduct jointly what they claimed will be the first trial of a commercial 747 operated with biofuel, with the test flight taking place in late 2008 or early 2009 using an (ANZ) 747-400. The airplane will not carry passengers, and only one engine will run on the blended biofuel/kerosene mix.

November 2007: 1st 6 months = 19.39 billion (RPK)s (+14.6%) traffic; 705.1 million (FTK)s (+10.7%) freight traffic; 2.68 million passengers (+13.5%).

December 2007: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) cabin staff (CA) represented by the "Unite" union, voted with a 71% majority to conduct two 48-hour strikes, the first beginning at 6 am on January 9 and the second at 6 am on January 16. "Their pay lags behind many other airlines, who fly the same business and holiday routes," Unite said, claming that British Airways (BAB) flight attendants (CA) earn up to +£10,000/+$20,087 more per year, flying comparable routes. Unite members last month rejected a +4.8% pay raise. The airline said it intends to operate its full schedule, except for certain flights between London Heathrow and New York (JFK), Chicago O'Hare, Boston, and Nairobi. It said it will work to book passengers on alternate dates.

Sir Richard Branson, (VAA) Chairman has told Virgin Atlantic (VAA) staff to quit the airline if they want more money, as cabin crew (CA) prepare to strike next month. The Virgin Atlantic (VAA) founder warned in a letter to 4,800 cabin crew (CA) that "dangerous" pay demands would not be met, and disgruntled workers should look elsewhere, if they want a bigger wage packet. The 48-hour strikes by staff on January 9 and January 16, will take place in the same month that workers at (BAA) (British Airports Authority), Britain's largest airport owner, also plan four days of industrial action. Branson said: "For some of you, more pay than Virgin Atlantic (VAA) can afford, may be critical to your lifestyle, and if that is the case, you should consider working elsewhere."

Referring to the most likely destination for disgruntled Virgin Atlantic (VAA) crew members (CA), Branson admitted that arch-rival British Airways (BAB) often offered a better basic salary, but did not provide the benefits that came with working for a "smaller, more friendly" company. A spokesman for the Unite union, which represents Virgin Atlantic (VAA) cabin crew (CA), said the letter was "insulting". He added: "That sort of language will only harden resolve." Cabin crew (CA) voted to strike after rejecting a +4.8% pay rise. Meanwhile, the Unite and PCS union representatives will meet (BAA)'s CEO, Stephen Nelson in an attempt to break the deadlock in a pensions dispute that threatens to close seven of the UK's largest airports on January 7, 14, 17, and 18.

For details of 2008 "Open Skies" between the (EU) & USA, SEE ATTACHED ARTICLE - "VAA-OPEN SKIES EU USA."

Sir Richard Branson told "Bloomberg News" that he finds it "surprising how little people have done" with the A380, and that when Virgin Atlantic (VAA) takes delivery of its airplanes beginning in 2013, it will equip them with "bars, showers, and in countries where we're allowed to, roulette and blackjack." He said Virgin (VAA)'s A380s will "certainly have double beds, private rooms, masseuses, and manicurists." He also told "Bloomberg" he is continuing to push Airbus (EDS) to offer a stretched A380 capable of carrying 800 passengers in three classes.

January 2008: 2007 statistics: 40.43 billion (RPK)s passenger traffic +14.6%; +8.6% capacity (ASK)s; +4 load factor for 76.4% LF. SEE ATTACHED COMPARISON CHART TO SELECTED OPERATORS - "VAA-2007-STATS."

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) announced it has scheduled a 747 biofuel demonstration flight for February. Unveiled in October, the alternative fuels initiative will start with a flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam with no passengers, and using "a truly sustainable type of biofuel, that doesn't compete with food and fresh water resources." Boeing (TBC) and (GE) Aviation (GEC) will participate in the test. Further details on the fuel were not released, but (VAA) Chairman, Richard Branson said Virgin (VAA) "pledged to invest all its profits from its transportation companies towards developing clean energy."

UK airports operator, British Airports Authority (BAA) withdrew a plan to close its final salary pension scheme to new employees, removing the threat of a series of strikes scheduled at its seven airports. (BAA) airport firefighters, security, maintenance, administrative and clerical staff belonging to the Unite union had voted to stage two 24-hour strikes and one 48-hour work stoppage this month, although they called off the first, scheduled for January 7, after (BAA) agreed to negotiate. "Our members' pension scheme is financially sound, and there is no reason to close it to new entrants," Unite said. "We are glad that (BAA) accepts that no changes should be introduced without proper consultation."
Planned flight attendant (CA) strikes at Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), however, appear imminent, as management and Unite-represented cabin staff (CA) apparently are not talking. The two 48-hour strikes, which would be the first in the airline's history, are planned for January 9 - 10, and January 16 - 17. The union claimed that the pay received by (VAA) cabin crew (CA) lags behind other carriers flying similar routes. The strike vote followed seven months of negotiations and a November rejection of the carrier's final offer.

Later, Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) and the Unite union reached agreement on a two-year pay deal for cabin crew (CA), averting the first flight attendant (CA) strike in the carrier's history. Unite had planned 48-hour strikes on January 9 to 10 and January 16 to 17. "The outcome is a triumph of common sense," Virgin (VAA)'s Richard Branson said. The agreement includes a +4.8% pay increase in the first year and a guarantee of (RPI) in the second.

When all-business-class (C) carrier MAXJet Airways (MXJ) announced it was filing for bankruptcy and shutting down service on Christmas Eve, two other all-business (C) airlines quickly stepped forward to offer services to displaced passengers and reaffirm their commitment to the service model.

MAXJet (MXJ), which operated five leased 767-200s between the USA and London Stansted, launched operations in November 2005. Last October, it cancelled flights from Washington Dulles, but continued service out of New York (JFK). On December 10, it suspended trading of its stock and said it would be "operating all flights and has no plans to change its schedule." Two weeks later, it filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations. "With today's fuel prices and the resulting impact on the credit climate for airlines, we are forced to take this drastic measure," (MXJ) President & CEO, William Stockbridge said. "We are extremely saddened to discontinue a service that we so passionately believe in." He informed customers that MAXJet (MXJ) had contracted with Eos Airlines (EOS) to re-accommodate its passengers.

Eos (EOS) President & CEO, Jack Williams released a statement touting his airline's passenger numbers and load factors, which ranged from 73% LF to 76% LF over the summer. Eos (EOS) operates six 757s configured with 48 (C) business class seats between (JFK) and (STN). "We are confident our business model works and this sets us apart from other early stage companies," Williams said.

Silverjet (SVJ) CEO, Lawrence Hunt issued a statement Christmas Eve extending an invitation to MAXJet (MXJ) customers. "The airline industry is hugely competitive, which is starkly illustrated by today's announcement. Indeed, Silverjet (SVJ) has already seen a 20% increase in bookings since MAXJet (MXJ)'s shares were suspended." The company operates three all-business-class (C) 767s from London Luton to Newark and Dubai, and expects to take delivery of two 767-200ERs by April.

British Airways (BAB) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) both have expressed interest in establishing their own transatlantic all-premium operations. A (BAB) spokesperson said that the carrier intends to reveal its plans soon and to launch service in the middle of this year.

British Airways (BAB) will launch its new transatlantic subsidiary, "OpenSkies," in June with daily flights from New York (JFK) to Brussels and Paris Charles de Gaulle using 757s carrying up to 82 passengers in business (C), premium economy and economy (Y) sections. The name of the new carrier reflects the pending liberalization of the USA/(EC) aviation market, effective March 31, that allows carriers from either side of the Atlantic access to any destination within the USA or (EC) provided slots are available. "It also signals our determination to lobby for further liberalization in this market, when talks between the (EU) and the USA take place later this year," (BAB) CEO, Willie Walsh said in a statement. Initially, "OpenSkies" service will be launched with a single airplanes with plans to add a second later this year, and increase the fleet to six by the end of 2009. All will come from the (BAB) fleet and will be retrofitted with Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) blended winglets. Dale Moss, a former Director Worldwide Sales for (BAB), will become the "OpenSkies" Managing Director.

"They want to start slowly," (BAB) spokesperson, John Lampl said. "We think there is a market out there for it. It gives customers more choice. We are not competing against ourselves but the other guys out there: Delta (DAL), United (UAL), Air France (AFA) and everybody else." Lampl said that "70% to 80% of the airplane is focused on business class (C), but there are still 30 seats to fill in the economy class (Y)." After initial service is launched, "OpenSkies" will look to expand to cities such as Frankfurt, Milan, Madrid, and Amsterdam, he said. The subsidiary has yet to receive its operating license and certificate from the USA Dept of Transportation (DOT).

"This is an interesting development," said aviation analyst George Hamlin, who also noted that using smaller 757s would keep operating costs down. "(BAB) is a very strong brand with business (C) traffic. The bulk of service is business (B) and first class (F). They are probably looking at thrifty travelers rather than backpackers. I suspect they have done their sums and believe this is possible to do."

February 2008: The Virgin Group (VAA) is in talks with a potential Russian partner about launching an airline in the market, Chairman, Richard Branson said in Moscow. "Now is the time for Virgin (VAA) to come to Russia," he said at a news conference during an investor conference he is attending. His remarks were reported widely. "We are in discussions with a Russian partner," he said. "We will announce in three months who that partner will be." Branson added that it would be better to do "something from scratch," rather than partner with an existing carrier. "You can make sure of the quality and avoid all of those cobwebs you might otherwise get," he explained. "We're looking to take on the airlines here." He promised that the Virgin (VAA) carrier "will be the best" in the market and noted that Russians don't fly nearly as often as people in Western Europe. "There's a lot of potential to take business away from the rail service," he said.

Boeing (TBC) is upbeat on its progress with what it terms "second-generation" biofuels and believes regular commercial services could be operating within five years. Addressing an industry environmental conference in Sydney, Head of Environmental Strategy, Bill Glover said that in the past two years he "changed from being a skeptic to an enthusiastic supporter of sustainable biofuels," adding, "It will take time to collect the data and get confidence [in the fuel], but an airplane powered by a biofuel blend, could be flying as early as five years' time. Within 10 years, we can have a significant impact on the market and on the carbon footprint of aviation."
Feasibility studies will begin this month with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) and (GE), while Air New Zealand (ANZ) and Rolls-Royce (RR) come onboard later this year. Glover said there has been substantial progress over the past 18 months. He explained that the industry cannot use what he termed "first-generation" biofuels such as ethanol, because of the low energy content, but that newer products do meet specifications. The new fuel must be interchangeable with current jet fuel, he said. It "must act like the fuel already being used and meet all the technical specifications." Glover noted that "second-generation" biofuels were "designed to avoid the problems of first-generation fuels that replaced grain stocks, used large quantities of water or required vast areas of agricultural land." He said the industry could grow the entire feedstock for the current aviation fleet in an area the size of Belgium. See attached article - VAA-BIOFUEL-FEB08.

Later, Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) operated a 747 demonstration flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam, partially powered by biofuel. Boeing (TBC), (GE) Aviation and Imperium Renewables partnered on the test, which came three weeks after Airbus (EDS) conducted an A380 flight test using a liquid fuel processed from gas. The Virgin (VAA) test used biofuel composed of babassu oil and coconut oil. "These oils are environmentally and socially sustainable," the airline said. "No modifications were made to either the airplane or its engines to enable the flight to take place." One of the four (CF6 ) engines was powered partially by the alternative fuel. Ahead of the flight, Boeing (TBC), (GE) and Imperium "conducted extensive laboratory and static engine testing on the ground," Virgin (VAA) said. "During these ground tests, the biofuel performed as we expected, with no negative impact on performance and with the same excellent fuel burn and emission levels," (GE) Manager Advanced Combustion Engineering, Tim Held said. Babassu oil comes from the nuts of the babassu tree, which is native to Brazil. Virgin (VAA) noted that "most coconut plantations are mature and do not contribute to deforestation."

British Airways (BAB) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) reached an approximately $200 million settlement on a class action suit filed on behalf of some 8 million USA and UK passengers, who purchased long-haul tickets from August 11, 2004, through March 23, 2006, when the carriers were found to have colluded on fuel surcharges. Washington law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll (CMH&T) released a statement saying that (BAB) and Virgin (VAA) were expected to sign the agreement that day and submit it to the USA District Court for approval. The terms call for $59 million to be set aside for ticket purchasers in the USA and £73.5 million/$144.6 million for those who bought tickets in the UK. The law firm said the claims process is free and the amount refunded will be up to £10 per segment and cover the entire overcharge paid by each passenger. (BAB) was fined approximately $540 million by USA and UK authorities last August, while Virgin (VAA) escaped penalty, because it reported the illegal activity to authorities. (BAB) will be responsible for $135.9 million of the settlement, with Virgin (VAA) taking care of the remaining $67.5 million, a (CMH&T) attorney told "Bloomberg News." "This settlement, which British Airways (BAB) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA) have jointly agreed with the lawyers for the plaintiffs, is fair and reasonable," (BAB) CEO, Willie Walsh said in a statement. "We absolutely condemn any anticompetitive behavior."

The prospect of a link-up between AirAsia (ASW) and Australia's Virgin Blue (VOZ) appears to be gathering momentum, with the world's lowest-cost operator flagging the launch of a joint venture (JV) with Virgin Blue (VOZ) to establish an "ultra-low-cost" carrier in Australia. (VOZ) has been searching for ways to counter low-cost entrants Jetstar Airways (IMU) and Tiger Airways (TGR), as it focuses more on the corporate market. Speaking to "News Ltd" in Australia, Toll Holdings, which owns 62% of Virgin Blue (VOZ), said it has received expressions of interest for its majority stake. "In the last three months, the Virgin Blue (VOZ) board has initiated a detailed review to maximize shareholder value," Toll Managing Director, Paul Little told "News." "It is clear that the level of liquidity in the listed stock is not supportive of shareholder value. A number of expressions of interest have been received, designed to unlock value and these are currently being assessed.''

(VOZ)'s shares have slumped from a high of A$2.44/$2.24 in early 2007 to close at A$1.25. The airline reported a +8.8% profit drop in the fiscal semester ended December 31 to +A$113.3 million.

AirAsia X (ASX) CEO, Azran Osman-Rani told media that while AirAsia (ASW) is keen on the (JV), "a lot of that hinges on what happens with Toll Holdings and who is going to take control of Virgin Blue (VOZ)." AirAsia (ASW) will enter into the (JV) only if Toll sells down its 62.7% stake and Virgin (VAA) Group chief, Richard Branson, who holds 16% of AirAsia X (ASX) and 25.5% of Virgin Blue (VOZ), regains management control of the carrier he launched in 2000. Both Branson and AirAsia (ASW) founder, Tony Fernandes will be in Australia next month for talks. Toll has been considering reducing its stake for some time, with various suitors, including Singapore Airlines (SIA) touted.

With the end of the UK government's consultation on expansion at London Heathrow (LHR) approaching, rivals British Airways (BAB) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) reiterated their support for a third runway at the world's largest international airport. "Expansion is crucial for British Airways (BAB) and all other airlines operating from the airport," (BAB) CEO, Willie Walsh said in the latest "BA News." "Heathrow is slipping behind. The facts speak for themselves, with a cut in the number of destinations it serves while other European hubs increase and expand." According to Walsh, if capacity is not increased over the next decade, there will be a loss of almost +30 additional destinations from some 180 currently served, whereas another runway could add 75 to 80 new destinations. "While Heathrow struggles to cope with the two runways it had when operations began in 1946, Amsterdam has five, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Madrid four, while a new airport is planned in Dubai with six runways," he argued.

Virgin (VAA) warned that the status quo might harm the regional economy, claiming that "multinational business are likely to move their headquarters away from London" without a third runway. "Business (C) travelers need an airport that flows seamlessly, not one that seizes up due to lack of space on the runways," President, Richard Branson said.

In November, the UK government outlined plans on how (LHR) could be developed over the next 20 years. Proposals include the possibility of a new 2,200-m runway by 2020 and introduction of mixed-mode use of existing runways as an interim measure. At present, the two runways are used for either takeoff or landing at any one time. The Department for Transport (DfT) says full mixed mode throughout the day would provide up to +60,000 additional movements per year, and could bring total movements to around 540,000 by 2015. This represents an increase in movements of +12% and is equivalent to an average of eight extra airplanes every hour, or 88 per hour, compared with 80 under segregated mode. Under the (DfT)'s proposals, (LHR) could operate with three runways from around 2020 with around 702,000 annual movements.

The prospect of adding a third runway was included in the government's well-known Air Transport White Paper of 2003. Public consultation began November 22 and ran until February 27. In parallel with the plans for a third runway, operator British Airports Authority (BAA) has plans for a sixth terminal.

The British Airports Authority (BAA), operator of seven UK airports, including London's Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick and Stansted, announced that CEO, Stephen Nelson will be replaced on April 1 by former British Airways (BAB) Director Technical Operations, Colin Matthews. The move comes after numerous operational meltdowns at (LHR) and amid calls from UK airlines to break up (BAA)'s "monopoly" in the London market, and as the UK Competition Commission conducts a formal antitrust investigation into the airports operator. Matthews' first day on the job will come just days after the long-awaited scheduled opening of (LHR)'s Terminal 5. Nelson, who has led the company since 2006, conceded that "(BAA) faced considerable challenges during my period as CEO," but touted the opening of T5 as "a landmark occasion" and boasted that the £4.3 billion/$8.5 billion "majestic building" is "on time and on budget [and] reflects all that is best about (BAA)."
Matthews, who worked for BA from 1997 until 2001, most recently served as CEO of Severn Trent, one of the UK's leading water and sewage companies. "No one underestimates the . . . difficulties we face on a daily basis in delivering [a high-level of service], but equally I am fully aware of how significant transforming our airports is for the future of this country," he said. (IATA) has called (BAA)'s service level "embarrassingly low." (BAB) praised the appointment and stated that its former executive "has a good knowledge of the aviation industry and of the needs of operators at our national hub airport Heathrow." Bmi (BMA) Deputy CEO, Tim Bye said that carrier has "significant issues with (BAA) and there are very significant challenges for Colin Matthews." Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) praised Matthews' appointment but, noting that he formerly worked for its main rival, said it will monitor him to "ensure that his background doesn't lead to further favoritism of (BAB)."

March 2008: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) unveiled a £1 million/$1.99 million premium lounge at Boston Logan. It accommodates up to 75 passengers.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is allowing the British Airports Authority (BAA) to raise charges at London Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW) by more than >20% next year. In its final decision on price controls at (LHR) and (LGW) for the five-year period ending March 31, 2013, (CAA) is increasing the price cap at Heathrow by +£2.44/+$4.92, or +23.5% in real terms, to £12.80 per passenger for the year starting next month. Charges in the four subsequent years could rise by +7.5% per year above inflation. At Gatwick, the price cap is set at £6.79 per passenger in 2008 to 2009, a +21% increase in real terms from the current cap. Charges in the next four years are allowed to increase +2% above inflation annually. "The (CAA) recognizes that the resulting increases in airport charges are significant. However, these higher airport charges are essentially paying for the modernization of Heathrow and Gatwick in terms of both facilities and service, for the direct benefit of the passenger," the regulator reasoned. It added that its package of price caps and incentives "will enable and encourage the (BAA) to deliver genuine service quality improvements and to invest to raise the level of facilities and service that can be delivered to passengers and airlines. The outcome for passengers should be decently modern airports and consistently high service standards." But airlines operating at the London airports reacted furiously. British Airways (BAB), which will benefit from this month's opening of the £4.3 billion Terminal 5, said the increases demonstrate conclusively that the airport regulation system has failed to the detriment of customers. "We suffer from very poor regulation and the whole process needs a root and branch review," General Manager Airport Policy & Infrastructure, Paul Ellis said. "The objective of the regulator should be to ensure that the (BAA) provides the infrastructure and services that customers require, but in a cost-effective and efficient way, that does not overcompensate the airport operator financially." Bmi (BMA), easyJet (EZY), Ryanair (RYR) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) joined forces to call for a fundamental regulation overhaul. "The dramatic price rises at Heathrow and Gatwick clearly demonstrate that the system is broken and needs to be changed," the four said in a joint statement. "That these price increases are significantly less than those demanded by the (BAA ) is a cause for alarm, not celebration, as the (BAA) has demonstrated that it is expecting the traveling public to pick up the bill for Grupo Ferrovial's highly leveraged speculative acquisition." See UK airports increases protests in attached - - "VAA-UK-AIRPORTS-MAR08."

(IATA) (ITA) condemned the UK (CAA)'s decision to allow significant charge increases at London Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW), saying that "failure is the only word to describe the (CAA)'s decision." (IATA) (ITA) claimed that the (BAA) generated an operating profit of +35% at (LHR), producing a net return on invested capital of 15.3% that was twice the level of the cost of capital set by the (CAA). (IATA) (ITA) Director General & CEO, Giovanni Bisignani argued that regulation should "not reward excessive monopoly profits and embarrassingly low service levels."

Rolls-Royce (RR) won a $2.6 billion deal from Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) for (Trent 1000)s to power up to 43 787s and announced an environmental partnership with the carrier to cut carbon emissions and identify opportunities to reduce airplane fuel burn through enhanced engine performance. "Rolls-Royce (RR) engines will help us cut emissions per flight by nearly -30% and become the most sustainable airline in the world," Virgin (VAA) Executive Chairman, Richard Branson said. "Our new environmental partnership will also bring major benefits to the aviation industry, enabling us to work together on researching and developing the most efficient engines in the sky, and continuously improving the fuel burn of our fleet of airplanes." Along with an accompanying TotalCare services agreement, the contract includes 15 firm airplanes plus eight options and 20 purchase rights. Delivery is scheduled to begin in 2011.

April 2008: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will operate a second daily London Heathrow - Washington Dulles service April 20 through October 25, aboard an A340.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) reaffirmed its well-known interest in acquiring bmi (BMA) and reportedly is seeking support from Lufthansa (DLH), which holds 30%-minus-one-share in bmi (BMA) and an option to acquire (BMA) Chairman, Michael Bishop's 50%-plus-one-share stake by the end of June 2009, for the tie-up. "We are very interested in a merger with bmi (BMA)," (VAA) External Affairs & Route Development Director, Barry Humphreys told "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," noting (DLH) could hold a stake in the new merged entity. Virgin (VAA) and bmi (BMA) held unsuccessful merger talks in 2003, but Bishop since repeatedly has stated that he is not selling his stake.

(DLH) declined comment, but (SAS) is prepared to sell its stake at the "right" price, "Thomson Financial" reported. "We are well aware that there may be limited interest for a 20% stake," an (SAS) spokesperson told the news service, adding that Virgin (VAA) has not contacted (SAS ), and that while (DLH) has no legal sway over its decisions, "they are our close partner so we'd want to discuss [a sale] with them." (VAA) is 51%-owned by the Virgin Group, while the remaining 49% is held by Singapore Airlines (SIA), which has left open the possibility of a divestment.

May 2008: Opposition from some quarters to potential moves by USA airlines in response to the recent Delta Air Lines (DAL)/Northwest Airlines (NWA) merger announcement, is fierce, with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) vowing to fight a British Airways (BAB)/American Airlines (AAL)/Continental Airlines (CAL) transatlantic alliance and United Airlines (UAL)'s pilots (FC) expressing strong disapproval of management's reported merger negotiations with US Airways (AMW)/(USA).
(CAL) said that it has ruled out a merger, but the current SkyTeam (STM) member is on the outside looking in at a (DAL)-(NWA)-Air France (AFA)-(KLM) transatlantic alliance and, according to (BAB), is exploring the possibility of leaving SkyTeam (STM) and joining with (BAB) and (AAL) in those carriers' long-proposed transatlantic partnership.

Virgin (VAA) Group, Chairman, Richard Branson said that he would "fight tooth and nail" against such an alliance. "When (BAB) and (AAL) first tried to get together nearly 10 years ago, the regulators ruled it was against the consumer interest," he said. "A link-up between (BAB) and (AAL) is still anticompetitive, and now they have the cheek of trying to add Continental (CAL) to the mix too. This triple whammy would reduce effective competition across the Atlantic and the regulators should make it absolutely clear that it would have no chance of getting off the starting grid."

Meanwhile, a possible (UAL)-(AMW)/(USA) combination, apparently being explored in the aftermath of the (DAL)-(NWA) announcement, would have to overcome considerable misgivings by pilot (FC) groups. (USA) still is struggling to integrate former America West Airlines (AMW) and former US Airways (USA) pilots (FC) into one group, creating a problematic East-West split among its flight deck (FC) crews. Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) (UAL) (MEC) Chairman, Steve Wallach said in a statement that a merger with (AMW)/(USA_ "would be extremely negative," adding: "Continued difficulties [after more than two-and-a-half years] associated with [(AMW)-(USA)] pilot (FC) seniority integration are well chronicled. Even those reports grossly underestimate the complexity of seniority integration, which likely will not be solved without years of litigation. US Airways (AMW)/(USA)'s pilot (FC) integration problems have created a toxic stew, as any carrier that seeks to merge with it will quickly discover." (AMW)/(USA) pilots recently rejected (ALPA) representation over frustration with the union's lack of progress in negotiations with management.

June 2008: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will increase its London Heathrow - Hong Kong service from daily to 10-times-weekly from October 28 and to twice-daily from December 4.

August 2008: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) confirmed reports that it is seeking to dispose of its 49% equity stake in Virgin Nigeria (VNA), the Lagos-based flag carrier it helped establish in 2004, and launch in April 2005. Nigerian institutional investors own 51%. "The intention has always been for the airline ultimately to be wholly owned by Nigerian investors. It is now time for Virgin Nigeria (VNA) to go its own way with local shareholders," Virgin Atlantic (VAA) President, Richard Branson said, noting that (VAA) "wishes to focus on growing its core long-haul business." It is in talks with potential purchasers. (VAA)'s confirmation it will sell its stake in the African carrier follows months of intense dispute with the Nigerian government, which last week forced the relocation of Virgin Nigeria (VNA)'s domestic operation from the international wing of Lagos Murtala Muhammed International to the second terminal, despite a court hearing on the matter scheduled for October 7. "It is regrettable that events have caused us to review our shareholding and whether it is appropriate that the Virgin (VAA) brand should remain linked to Virgin Nigeria (VNA)," Branson stated. He also stressed that (VAA) has had no financial benefit from Virgin Nigeria (VNA) with respect to leases, rental fees or facilities and that "in fact, Virgin Nigeria (VNA) has benefited from highly attractive lease rates offered by Virgin Atlantic (VAA). While royalty fees are payable for the use of the Virgin (VAA) brand, Virgin Nigeria (VNA) has not paid anything since its launch." Nigerian media recently reported that (VAA) had been pressured by minority shareholder Singapore Airlines (SIA) to sell its share in Virgin Nigeria (VNA), which last year posted a loss of -NGN9.5 billion, on revenue of NGN20.9 billion and negatively impacted Virgin Atlantic (VAA)'s profit-and-loss statement. (SIA) CEO , Chew Choon Seng has stated several times that he is dissatisfied with (VAA)'s financial performance.

The British Airports Authority (BAA) completed the long-awaited £13.3 billion/$24.81 billion refinancing of its seven UK airports, which it said will provide "a stable, long-term, investment grade financing platform for investment in [London] Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), and Stansted (STN) airports over the coming decades." Included is £3 billion of committed facilities to fund immediate investment projects across the seven airports: (LHR), (STN), (LGW), Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Aberdeen, and Southampton. The refinancing agreement comprises three main elements, including a corporate reorganization to separate financing of the three London airports and the four others into ring-fenced groups. The deal comes just days before the UK Competition Commission is expected to announce the findings of its investigation into domestic airport ownership. In its interim report published in April, the Commission said the operator's ownership of the seven airports "may not be serving the interests of either airlines or passengers." Later, the UK (CAA) stated that common ownership of the three London airports "is likely to prevent, restrict and/or distort competition." The anticipated report has led to a stream of speculation that the (BAA) might be forced to sell one or more of its facilities. Chairman, Nigel Rudd conceded to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) over the weekend, that he expected the watchdog to recommend a breakup of the company, yet he discounted claims that such a move would increase competition, due to (LHR)'s prime location. "Heathrow does not compete with Gatwick and does not compete with Stansted or Luton or Manchester," he said.

Rudd also claimed that there had been "huge expressions of interest" in (LGW) and (STN), but insisted neither was for sale at present. Manchester Airport Group reportedly is interested in (LGW), while other probable bidders include Hochtief, Macquarie, and Dubai International Capital.

The (BAA) might have to sell three of its seven UK airports - - two in London and either Edinburgh (EDI) or Glasgow International (GLA) - - in order to address competition problems arising from their common ownership, the UK Competition Commission (CC) said in its provisional report into the market for the supply of airport services in the UK. The Commission also concluded that there are competition problems arising from the planning system, aspects of government policy and the system of regulation. Inquiry Chairman, Christopher Clarke said "significant" competition issues stemmed from a large number of factors, including the (BAA)'s "lack of responsiveness to the needs of its airline customers and a lack of initiative in planning capacity. This has resulted in investment, that is not tailored to the requirements of airport users and lower levels and quality of service for both airlines and passengers." The (CC) will hold consultations with industry players regarding which two of the (BAA)'s London airports should be sold, although it is unlikely to require the divestiture of Heathrow unless the sale of Gatwick or Stansted is "likely to be impractical or ineffective." It will hold similar discussions on the fates of (GLA) and (EDI). It will announce its final decision in the first quarter of next year. It also will discuss potential changes to the regulatory framework to improve competition.

The (BAA) claimed the report was "not the end of the Competition Commission (CC) process" and vowed to continue to demonstrate "the many areas where we believe [the (CC)'s] analysis is flawed and its remedies would be disproportionate and counterproductive." CEO, Colin Matthews added that the (CC) risked "delaying the delivery of new runways and making better customer service less, not more, likely."

Meanwhile, airlines hailed the proposals. "We welcome the Competition Commission's findings and thoroughly support the breakup of the (BAA)'s dominance of airport ownership in the UK," bmi (BMA) CEO, Nigel Turner said. "Bmi (BMA) has argued for many years that the ownership of the three major London airports and Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland by one operator prevents competition between them, especially amongst London airports where they enjoy 91% of the total market in London and the South East."

Ryanair (RYR) Director Regulatory & Legal Affairs, Jim Callaghan said, "Monopolies clearly don't work and the (BAA) monopoly has done huge damage to competition and the traveling public, and it is high time it was broken up," while pointing out that (STN) now is (RYR)'s most expensive airport "by a considerable margin."

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) described the report as a "major victory for passengers," but easyJet (EZY) warned that a breakup of the (BAA) will not result necessarily in a better deal for the traveling public. "Without better regulation, there will be no more protection for the consumer from the greedy new owners than there was from the (BAA). In fact, it would just create a number of the (BAA) 'Mini-Me Monopolies' - - smaller monopolists, hell-bent on sweating their assets and increasing charges, without improving the passenger experience," CEO, Andy Harrison said.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) selected Mercator's Skychain as its new cargo reservation and business management solution. Implementation is expected by May 2009.

September 2008: 12 months ending February 2008 net profit = +$95 million. Without special items and taxes, its profit was +$122 million.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) Chairman, Richard Branson said that he will fight the American Airlines (AAL)/British Airways (BAB)/Iberia (IBE) transatlantic antitrust immunity application "tooth and nail," adding, "it's a bit like allowing Coke and Pepsi to merge." (AAL) fired back, accusing Virgin (VAA) of resorting "to baseless arguments and hypocritical scare tactics," adding, "Virgin (VAA) is intentionally trying to mislead regulators and the general public."

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) is considering joining a consortium that may submit a bid for ownership of London Gatwick (LGW) if the British Airports Authority (BAA) divests (LGW), the carrier confirmed. "Virgin Atlantic (VAA) would be interested in possibly bidding to run it, as part of a consortium. We would be able to bring our expertise in customer service into any ownership group," it said. (VAA) declined to confirm reports that easyJet (EZY), Ryanair (RYR), and Monarch Airlines (MON) might be part of the consortium, saying, "It is very early days in terms of Gatwick's future ownership and so we cannot comment on parties we may have held talks with - - but we are watching developments closely."

Later, the (BAA) put London Gatwick (LGW) up for sale, a move it described as a "realistic . . . response" to the UK Competition Commission (CC)'s provisional report released last month, that raised concerns over the company's ownership of seven UK airports including three serving London. Though the (BAA) said it does not agree with the (CC)'s provisional findings, a precursor to a final decision expected early next year on whether the (BAA)'s airport holdings should be broken up, it conceded that it needs to take measures to resolve "current uncertainty" over future ownership of London's airports. It is unclear whether selling (LGW) will satisfy the (CC), which in last month's report leaned toward recommending that the (BAA) sell two of the three London airports as well as either Edinburgh or Glasgow. The airport operator (BAA), a subsidiary of Grupo Ferrovial, indicated that it would like to retain both London Heathrow (LHR) and Stansted (STN), saying that "a change of ownership [at Stansted] would interfere with the process of securing planning approval for a second runway, which remains a key feature of [UK] air transport policy."

(BAA) CEO, Colin Matthews said, "Gatwick has long been an important and valuable part of the (BAA) and the decision to sell was not taken lightly." Analysts pegged (LGW)'s value at more than >£2 billion/$3.6 billion.

Potential buyers are already lining up. Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) said yesterday that it would "relish the opportunity'' to bid for the airport as part of a consortium. Manchester Airport Group and Fraport AG also have expressed interest.

Ryanair (RYR) CEO, Michael O'Leary, a long-time (BAA) critic, said the sale of (LGW) is an "attempt by the (BAA) monopoly to get itself off the hook" from making further sales to satisfy the (CC), adding that "the trick of selling off Gatwick won't end [BAA's] abusive monopoly." (LGW) handled 35 million passengers last year, second most in the UK behind (LHR).

Later, the UK (CAA) released its response to the Competition Commission (CC)'s provisional report on airport services and the (BAA)'s decision to sell London Gatwick (LGW), saying it "strongly supports" the (CC)'s recommendation that the (BAA) sell three airports and that the move "can be expected to significantly increase competition between airports in the South East and Scotland, to the benefit of passengers, airlines and the wider UK economy." It said the sale of (LGW) is "an important first step to realizing these benefits" and that the (CC) should reject the (BAA)'s contention that "airports cannot compete when their runways are full."

Ryanair (RYR) was unconvinced, however, calling for the resignation of (CAA) head, Harry Bush, whom (RYR) claimed "has spent the last 10 years protecting the (BAA) monopoly" and now has "no credibility." CEO, Michael O'Leary called the (CAA) "a failed regulator."

October 2008: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) flew 3.19 billion (RPK)s traffic in September, a -1.7% drop from the year-ago month. Capacity declined -1.3% to 4.18 billion (ASK)s, lowering load factor -0.3 point to 76.4% LF.

(VAA) posted a pre-tax profit of +£72 million/+$125.9 million in the fiscal first half ended August 31, up +67.4% from the +£43 million reported in the year-ago semester. Revenue climbed +15% to £1.37 billion, and passenger numbers were up +3% to 3 million. Premium traffic rose +6% year-over-year.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), which has held several discussions with bmi (BMA) over a possible tie-up, still believes a combination is possible, and reportedly is seeking a partnership with its UK counterpart and its future-owner Lufthansa (DLH). "Everyone has speculated that it would make sense for Virgin Atlantic (VAA) and bmi (BMA) to combine their long-haul and short-haul networks," CEO, Steve Ridgway told "Reuters." "There is now a major opportunity to do that and create a new, strongly viable competitor to British Airways (BAB). I am sure that Lufthansa (DLH) realizes the future opportunities and this could be a really good example of the right industry consolidation."

Ridgway declined to say whether Virgin (VAA), which long has coveted a deal with independent-minded bmi (BMA), would try to buy out (DLH) or seek a three-way deal. Virgin (VAA) has opposed vigorously the granting of antitrust immunity to (BAB), American Airlines (AAL), and Iberia (IBE). He also said forward bookings for summer 2009 are "very good but that may be motivated people who are still comfortably off. The acid test will be the crucial January period for leisure travel." There are no plans to defer or cancel airplanes, but he said he was "disappointed and annoyed" over the 787 delays. He predicted the 15 airplanes ordered by Virgin (VAA) would arrive two years late instead of the 18 months Boeing (TBC) is estimating, the news service reported.

(VAA) launched a website "showing why passengers will lose out" if antitrust immunity for American Airlines (AAL), British Airways (BAB), and Iberia (IBE) is approved. Virgin (VAA) claimed that a united (AAL)/(BAB) would control 63% of capacity from London Heathrow to New York (JFK), 66% to Chicago O'Hare, 75% to Miami, 79% to Boston, and 100% to Dallas/Fort Worth.

November 2008: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) urged the European Commission (EC) to reject the planned virtual merger between British Airways (BAB) and American Airlines (AAL). In an extensive document submitted to the (EC) competition authorities, (VAA) said that (BAB) and (AAL) - if allowed to combine - would use their market power to raise fares, adjust schedules to keep out competitors and cut off connecting feeder traffic to other carriers at London Heathrow (LHR). In addition, they would reinforce their market power through a combined Frequent Flyer Program, which no competitor at (LHR) could replicate. Steve Ridgway, (CEO) of (VAA), said "We urge the (EC) to reject outright this third attempt by (BAB) and (AAL) to stifle competition between (LHR) and the USA. Their virtual merger would lock-up one of the world's busiest air corridors against new and existing competition, increase (BAB)'s grip on the most constrained international airport in the world, and cause grave harm to consumers with higher prices." Six routes between (LHR) and the USA currently benefit from (BAB) and (AAL) operating independently, competing fiercely for corporate customers, independent travelers and connecting passengers. Five of these six routes, including (LHR) - (JFK); (LHR) - (ORD); (LHR) - (BOS); (LHR) - (MIA) and (LHR) - (LAX) are in the top seven for (LHR) - USA passenger numbers, with (LHR) being by far the busiest and most important European gateway for traffic to and from the USA. By combining these routes, (BAB) and (AAL) would form a virtual merger which:
-- would dominate all six of the overlap routes in capacity, traffic and schedules;
-- would dominate traffic between (LHR) and the USA, particularly for time-sensitive travelers and corporate customers which require a broad network of routes from (LHR);
-- would dominate connecting traffic using (LHR) - USA routes,
particularly traffic connecting at (LHR), but also at (AAL) hubs;
-- would enjoy a largely unfettered ability to defeat competition because it would have by far the best access to slots at (LHR), where new entry or competitor expansion is severely constrained and much more so than at any other comparable airport in Europe.

(BAB)/(AAL) would have a monopoly or be dominant on some of the busiest and most profitable routes between the USA and (LHR). (BAB)/(AAL) would control 64% of the capacity between (JFK) - New York and (LHR); 64% between Chicago (ORD) and (LHR); 80% between Boston (BOS) and (LHR); 73% between Miami (MIA) and (LHR); and 100% between Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and (LHR), and Seattle (SEA) and (LHR).

Steve Ridgway added "Even if (BAB) and (AAL) were forced to give up slots at (LHR), these so-called slot remedies on their own, would not be suitable, as they would be insufficient to reinstate any effective level of competition. They would not cancel out anticompetitive effects arising out of the increased network reach, planned by (BAB) and (AAL)."

(BAB) on its own, is already bigger between (LHR) and the USA than the Star Alliance (SAL) is from Frankfurt to the USA or SkyTeam (STM) is from Paris to the USA. (LHR), which is totally full, accounts for nearly a quarter of all passengers traveling between Europe and the USA.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will start a second daily, London Heathrow - Hong Kong, on December 4, aboard an A340-600.

(VAA) promoted General Manager Continuing Airworthiness, Steve Griffiths to Director Engineering. He replaces Jeff Livings, who now is at Gulf Air (GUL).

(VAA) is considering additional airplane orders, possibly for 777s or the A350 XWB, while it is in talks with Boeing (TBC) on compensation for the delay of its 787s. A potential new order is separate from discussions regarding replacement/interim lift for the delayed 787 Dreamliners, although part of an order could substitute the options and purchase rights the carrier has on an additional eight and 20 787s, respectively. "Yes, we are seeking compensation from Boeing (TBC)," CEO, Steve Ridgway confirmed. "We remain very keen in getting them, but we are very frustrated. We need clarity. We need firm [delivery] deadlines." (VAA) placed a firm order for 15 787-9s in April 2007 and had expected delivery of its first 3 to 4 airplanes in 2011 and all of them by 2014. The carrier, which pushed delivery of the first of its six A380s back to 2013, also remains interested in the A380 stretch version.

Ridgway, who met with European Commissioner for Competition, Neelie Kroes to voice the airline's concern over possible antitrust immunity for American Airlines (AAL) and British Airways (BAB), revealed that he is confident (VAA)'s financial results for the fiscal third quarter ending November 30 "will be good." The result is expected to be line with the first six months, when it reported a +67.4% year-over-year increase in pre-tax profit to +£72 million/+$109.3 million. "We'll have to be careful in the last quarter, but it's our objective to extend the first-half results to the full year," Ridgway said, noting the company is "strongly" hedged against foreign currencies and fuel price fluctuations, upward as well as downward. Premium traffic is slowing slightly, but "we're not really seeing a sharp drop in [overall] demand," he added. "We're not overexposed to the financial sector and leisure traffic from [London] Gatwick is still very good. This, however, does not mean we're complacent." (VAA) is increasing capacity about 1% networkwide.

Ridgway denied the group is interested in buying (SAS)'s 20% stake in bmi (BMA) and remained diplomatically vague on whether it intends to join the Star Alliance (SAL). Conversely, he confirmed that (VAA) remains keen on being part of a consortium that might bid for London Gatwick (LGW) airport.

December 2008: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) Chairman, Richard Branson said that "talks will take place with Lufthansa (DLH), maybe are taking place to see whether it makes sense for the two companies to work together," the "Associated Press" reported. "There is some logic in the two companies getting together," Branson said. (VAA) has maintained interest in either a stake or cooperation with UK rival, bmi (BMA), which (DLH) will take over early next year. It also has been working to derail British Airways (BAB)'s tie-up with American Airlines (AAL) and Iberia (IBE). "I would urge governments to beware of companies who use what is going to be a temporary financial crisis to try to bring about mergers that would be against the public interest," Branson said.

(VAA) and (DLH) confirmed discussions regarding future cooperation and the latter's impending takeover of bmi (BMA). "(DLH) can confirm that it is exploring options regarding the future ownership of (BMA). These options include different scenarios," (DLH) said in a statement cited by the "BBC." (VAA) confirmed in a statement cited in several press reports that it "is holding talks with (DLH) regarding the future of bmi (BMA). These discussions may or may not lead to an agreement and a further announcement will be made in due course."

Later, (VAA) CFO, Julia Southern confirmed (VAA) is not interested in acquiring bmi (BMA) regional or bmibaby (BMI) and is negotiating with Lufthansa (DHL) solely about the acquisition of bmi (BMA)'s mainline operation at London Heathrow.

VAA) CFO, Julie Southern conceded that the group's intent to sell or reduce its 49% shareholding in Virgin Nigeria (VNA) has been put on hold owing to the current credit crunch. "The business is increasingly independent and we would be happy to sell or reduce our shareholding as part of a private placement capital-raising process. Clearly, that has been temporally put on hold for the moment because the markets just won't support it. So for now, we maintain our shareholding, and the brand remains on the business. It is possible that even beyond the sale, the brand could remain on the business," she said.

The UK Competition Commission (CC) "confirmed" that it will require British Airports Authority (BAA) to sell both London Gatwick (LGW) and London Stansted (STN), setting the stage for a breakup of the airport operator's control of London's airports for which UK airlines long have pushed. The ruling, which follows earlier (CC) provisional reports that pointed toward the breakup, is subject to "final consultation," but is almost certain to be issued formally in late February/early March. It also calls for (BAA) to sell Edinburgh. The airport operator, a subsidiary of Grupo Ferrovial, will be allowed to retain London Heathrow (LHR) and three other UK airports. It already has put (LGW) up for sale in anticipation of the (CC) ruling.

Christopher Clarke, the (CC)'s (BAA) inquiry Chairman, said, "The most effective way to introduce competition . . . is to require the three London airports and the two principal Scottish airports to be separately owned . . . Under separate ownership, the airport operators, including (BAA), will have a much greater incentive to be far more responsive to their customers, both airlines and passengers."
He added that the (CC) also will make recommendations to the UK Department for Transport "on a more effective, and ultimately more flexible, system of airport regulation." These will include a call to "adopt a license-based regime of economic regulation for airport owners to give the regulator more ability to intervene flexibly when necessary on issues such as performance and adequate financing. The license should impose a set of duties on the operator of (LHR)." (BAA) CEO, Colin Matthews questioned the finding, saying, "We do not believe that [the (CC)] has set out compelling evidence to support its view that [separate ownership] will increase competition, and we remain concerned that its proposed remedies may actually delay the introduction of new runway capacity." Airlines welcomed the finding. "The (CC) recognizes the unacceptable levels of service that passengers and airline customers have had to put up with for years," Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) stated.

EasyJet (EZY) CEO, Andy Harrison warned, however, that the breakup and proposed regulatory changes "can only address part of the problem," adding, "The simple fact is that airports like (LGW) are a monopoly and simply changing the ownership will not change that fact . . . Any new owner of (LGW) will have to pay a full price and will have every incentive to exploit the weaknesses of UK airport regulation with air passengers having to pick up the bill."

January 2009: Bmi (BMA) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) expanded their code share agreement to cover (VAA) passengers flying from New York (JFK) to London Heathrow and connecting on (BMA) flights to Amman (AMM), Beirut (BEY), Tel Aviv (TLV), and Tehran. It also will cover Newark passengers connecting to (AMM), (BEY), and (TLV), Boston passengers connecting to (AMM) and (BEY) and Los Angeles passengers connecting to (IKA). (VAA)'s long-haul customers will have access to (BMA) connecting flights to Aberdeen, Belfast, Durham Tees Valley, Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Leeds Bradford and Manchester.

The UK (CAA) reiterated its "strong support" for the Competition Commission (CC)'s provisional decision requiring British Airports Authority (BAA) to sell off London Gatwick airport (LGW) and London Stansted airport (STN) and either Edinburgh airport or Glasgow International airport. The divestment is "expected significantly to increase competition between airports in the Southeast and Scotland, to the benefit of passengers, airlines and the wider UK economy," the (CAA) said, noting that it does not feel there is sufficient evidence to support the sale of one Scottish airport over the other. However, the agency disagrees with certain behavioral remedies proposed by the (CC), including introduction of price controls at Aberdeen and additional regulatory measures at London Heathrow airport (LHR) and, potentially, (LGW) and (STN). "The (CAA) does not consider that a case has been made for the remedies package at (LHR) to go further than the package of service quality and other measures implemented following the recent price control review," it stated, warning that applying additional measures to (LGW) and (STN "appears likely to detract from the benefits that the airport divestments will bring."

February 2009: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) confirmed that it has commenced consultation with staff and union representatives about the possibility of cutting -600 jobs from its workforce numbering approximately 8,500, saying it is seeking to avoid layoffs but cannot rule them out. "No airline is immune from the recession and we continue to reshape our business to ensure we're in the best position for the longer term," CEO, Steve Ridgway said. "With falling demand for travel, airlines have to reduce their costs through a variety of measures including cutting capacity, freezing pay, unpaid leave and, regrettably, adjusting staff numbers. We need to stay healthy so we're ready to grow again when economic conditions allow."

Last month, (VAA) said that it still expected to report a profit for the current financial year ending February 28 following a strong performance through the first nine months. Its six-month pre-tax profit rose +67.4% year-over-year to +£72 million/+$103.9 million.

Air France (AFA)/(KLM), British Airways (BAB), Cathay Pacific Airways (CAT), Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) and UK airports operator (BAA) announced formation of the Aviation Global Deal (AGD) Group, which expressed its support for inclusion of carbon dioxide emissions in a "new global climate deal" scheduled to be discussed at December's United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen.

Meeting in Hong Kong, the (AGD) argued for a "fair and effective global policy solution" on aviation emissions, which were not included in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and are not managed under any current global agreement. (ICAO), which the group supports, is working on its own cap-and-trade plan, while the (EU) plans to include aviation in its controversial trading scheme from 2012.

The four airlines and (BAA) said any global emissions policy must "offer genuine environmental benefits . . . be operationally and economically sound . . . maintain competitiveness between airlines and avoid market distortions . . . [and] balance the social and economic benefits of flying with the industry's responsibility to cut global emissions."

(CAT) CEO, Tony Tyler said, "Aviation has a key part to play in reducing global emissions and for too long has been seen as part of the climate problem rather than part of the solution. We hope the work of our group will offer a practical industry-led solution that creates a level playing field and appeals to policy-makers, environmental groups and businesses alike." The (AGD) said it will seek support from other airlines and industry stakeholders.

March 2009: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will suspend its London Heathrow - Mumbai service on May 2, citing falling passenger demand and "irrational pricing" by rivals. Passenger numbers declined -18% between January and November 2008, (VAA) said.

(VAA) promoted Director of Engineering, Steve Griffiths to COO, succeeding Lyell Strambi.

The SpaceShipTwo experimental prototype carrier airplane WhiteKnight Two, called Virgin Galactic MotherShip Eve is to fly publicly for the first time at this year's Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture air show in Oshkosh in July.

April 2009: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will operate a San Juan sector on its weekly 747-400 London Gatwick - Antigua service November 7 - April 24.

The British Air Transport Association (BATA) named former (VAA) Director External Affairs & Route Development, Barry Humphries as Chairman, effective May 1, succeeding Monarch Airlines (MON) Chairman, Danny Bernstein. (BATA) has 10 member airlines.

May 2009: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) nearly doubled its pre-tax profit to +£68.4 million/+$108.7 million for its fiscal year ended February 28 from +£34.8 million in the prior year. CEO, Steve Ridgway said the company increased profitability despite "the toughest trading environment ever" because "with some of the lowest fares ever" it is "winning market share from our competitors." He added that "load factors remain resilient as travelers take advantage of these bargain fares." (VAA) said fares are "at their lowest level in 25 years." (VAA) will celebrate its 25th anniversary on June 22.

While most major international carriers have reported steep declines in business (C) passengers, (VAA) claimed there was "an increase in the number of premium travelers choosing (VAA)." It also cited "prudent management decisions" taken during the year. In February, it commenced consultation with staff and union representatives about the possibility of cutting -600 jobs from its workforce numbering approximately 8,500, saying it was seeking to avoid layoffs but cannot rule them out.

Group sales, including revenue generated by tour operator Virgin Holidays, rose +8.4% to £2.58 billion. (VAA) said it carried 5.77 million passengers during the fiscal year. Since it is privately held, it does not release detailed earnings and traffic figures.

Virgin Group Chairman, Richard Branson said that the USA Department of Transportation (DOT)'s granting American Airlines (AAL), British Airways (BAB) and other Oneworld (ONW) carriers antitrust immunity (ATI) on transatlantic services "would create a monster monopoly on key routes between London Heathrow and the USA." In a speech in Washington, he said (BAB)/(AAL) would control "nearly half of all takeoff and landing slots at London Heathrow" and that (ATI) would prove "disastrous" for the airline industry and consumers. "It's clear that the application for a merger between (BAB) and (AAL) must be rejected," he said, adding, "What is before the regulators today is the future of a competitive international aviation industry." (AAL) responded by accusing Branson of "trotting out old, outdated arguments that do not reflect the current environment and trying to sensationalize the matter."

June 2009: (ANA) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will code share on each other's London Heathrow - Tokyo Narita services.

Bmi (BMA) added its code to (VAA) flights from London Heathrow to six USA destinations, Dubai, Nairobi, and Delhi.

Industry sources told both the "BBC" and "Reuters" that (VAA)'s relationship with Virgin Nigeria Airways (VNA) will end next month, at which point it will have to re-brand. (VAA) has been looking to offload its 49% stake in (VNA) since last summer.

(VAA) and AerCap (DEA) announced a deal that will see 10 A330-300s join the fleet in 2011 to 2012 as (VAA) moves to fill the gap caused by the delayed introduction of its 15 787-9s, now scheduled to begin arriving in 2013. (VAA) ordered six of the A330s directly from Airbus (EDS) and signed a letter of intent (LOI) with (DEA) for a sale and leaseback transaction. (DEA) will lease the four remaining airplanes to (VAA) from its own portfolio. (VAA) will take delivery of five A330-300s in 2011 and five the following year. Lease terms on the airplanes will be 12 years. They will be (VAA)'s first twin-engine jets - - it currently operates A340s and 747-400s. The A330s will set up to 270 passengers across three classes, (EDS) said. No engine choice was announced. (DEA) said the four airplanes not purchased from (EDS) were the only remaining positions from its order for 30 placed in 2006 to 2007.

(VAA) still has six A340-600s on order stemming from the commitment for 13 firm airplanes and 13 options made in 2004. (EDS) confirmed that they remain in its order book. (VAA) also has six A380s on order with delivery expected to start in 2013.

(VAA) celebrated its 25th birthday this month!

July 2009: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) CEO, Steve Ridgway said that (VAA) will cut its winter capacity by -7% (ASK) year-over-year, putting up to 600 jobs in jeopardy. "The outlook for the industry is as bleak as ever and all airlines are having to shrink their businesses," he said, according to press reports. "We will look to minimize the number of compulsory redundancies and ensure we treat our staff as fairly as possible." (VAA)'s London Heathrow - Chicago O'Hare service will be suspended, while flights to Hong Kong will be halved.

GE Aviation (GEC) said it "successfully completed a customer trial of its ClearCore engine wash effluent collection system" on a Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) (CF6-80C2)-powered 747-400 at London Heathrow. According to (GEC), ClearCore will be offered as either an effluent collection system working with "existing front-end wash equipment" or as a complete wash and collection system.

July 2009: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) CEO, Steve Ridgway acknowledged that he was aware of the collusion between executives at (VAA) and British Airways (BAB) to fix fuel surcharges on long-haul flights between June 2004 through April 2006. In a statement released by (VAA) simultaneous to court proceedings in London and cited by several press reports, Ridgway said, "I apologize unreservedly for my involvement in this case. I have fully cooperated with the competition authorities since their enquiries began in 2006. Although I did not have any direct contact with (BAB) in relation to passenger fuel surcharges, I regret that, on becoming aware of the discussions, I did not take steps to stop them." He added that a "thorough and far-reaching competition law training program" has been implemented at (VAA). He is immune from prosecution because (VAA) brought the collusion to authorities' attention.

The Southwark Crown Court in London is hearing a case concerning four (BAB) employees brought by the UK Office of Fair Trading. Several other (VAA) employees also were named as having been aware of the impropriety. (BAB) was fined £121.5 million/$196.9 million by UK authorities and $300 million by the USA Department of Justice. "I know that Steve understands the seriousness of the matter and I fully support the comprehensive measures he has taken within (VAA) to prevent any future infringements of competition law," (VAA) Chairman, Stephen Murphy was quoted as saying.

UK passengers have been making claims against British Airways (BAB) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) in increasing numbers relating to the carriers' price-fixing practices on long-haul flights between August 11, 2004, and March 23, 2006, "Dow Jones" reported. More than >211,000 refunds have been processed so far, of which 170,000 are from UK passengers, claimant law firm Hausfeld & Company LLP said. Payment has been authorized in 133,000 of these cases. Hausfeld estimates that the airlines overcharged UK customers on a combined 5.6 million journeys during the two-year cartel period. "Passengers have until December [31] 2012 to claim their refunds, and unless significant numbers of claims are made between now and then big companies like (BAB) and (VAA) will continue to believe that they can get away with ripping off their loyal customers," Hausfeld partner Anthony Maton told the newswire.

September 2009: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) introduced a new baggage policy based on what it called a "piece system." Economy (Y) passengers will be allowed to check one bag weighing up to 23 kg free of charge, premium economy passengers will be entitled to two bags weighing up to 23 kg each and business class (C) passengers can check up to three. Any additional bags will cost £32/$52.87 per item when booked online or £40 at airport check-in. Economy (Y) passengers travelling between London Heathrow and Nairobi or Lagos will be able to check a second bag at no charge.

Air France (AFA) Industries and (KLM) Engineering & Maintenance extended its contract with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) for heavy airframe maintenance on 747-400s for one additional year through 2011.

October 2009: The European Commission (EC) confirmed that it sent a "statement of objections" to American Airlines (AAL), British Airways (BAB) and Iberia (IBE) in September, warning the carriers that their proposed cooperation on transatlantic services "may be in breach of European rules on restrictive business practices." The (EC) in April opened an antitrust inquiry into the proposal, which would see the Oneworld (ONW) partners deepen their cooperation across the Atlantic by coordinating commercial, operational and marketing activities, in particular by jointly managing schedules, capacity and pricing as well as sharing revenue on transatlantic routes. The (EC)'s specific objections were not made public. It emphasized that issuance of the document to the carriers "is a formal step in Commission antitrust investigations" that does "not prejudge the final outcome." The carriers can respond in writing or request an oral hearing.

"We have received the (EU)'s statement of objections and look forward to the opportunity to address and overcome the (EU)'s concerns, especially given the substantial benefits for consumers," (BAB) said in a statement. "The (EU)'s thorough review of our plans and supporting evidence was anticipated."

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), a vocal critic of the proposed transatlantic pact, "welcomed" the (EC)'s issuance of objections, stating, "(VAA) would expect the (EC) to find that the proposed alliance would damage competition and consumer interests on all six of the routes from [London] Heathrow to the USA on which (BAB) and (AAL) both operate currently. These include Heathrow to New York (JFK) on which (BAB) and (AAL) together would control 62% of all capacity and would have an unassailable grip on time-sensitive premium passengers."

The British Airports Authority (BAA) concluded an agreement to sell its 100% interest in London Gatwick (LGW) to a group controlled by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) for £1.51 billion/$2.48 billion, of which £55 million is conditional on future traffic performance and the buyer's future capital structure. (GIP), which was founded jointly by Credit Suisse and (GE), already owns 75% of London City. "Today's announcement marks a new beginning for both (LGW) and (BAA). We wish (LGW) well for the future and are confident that the airport will flourish under new ownership," (BAA) CEO, Colin Matthews said, adding, "(BAA) will focus on improving London Heathrow (LHR) and our other airports."

(BAA) was ordered by the UK Competition Commission (CC) to sell (LGW), London Stansted and either Glasgow International or Edinburgh, but is appealing the decision. It said it initiated plans to sell (LGW) in September 2008, before the end of the (CC)'s investigation. Proceeds will be used primarily for debt repayment.

(LGW) opened in 1958 and is the busiest single-runway airport in the world, handling 32.2 million passengers in the year to September 30. The sale is subject to, among other things, European Union (EU) clearance. Completion of the sale is expected in December.

EasyJet (EZY), (LGW)'s largest carrier with 9.6 million annual passengers and a 28% market share, said it welcomed the change in ownership but argued that "regardless of who owns (LGW), it is still a monopoly. Therefore it is vital that (LGW) is properly regulated to protect airline passengers from the new owners exploiting their market power." Flybe (BEE), (LGW)'s biggest domestic airline and third-biggest slot-holder, gave a "cautious" welcome to the news and said it "represents a real opportunity for the new owners to strengthen (LGW)'s position as the champion of short-haul and European flying. (GIP) would be making a fatal mistake if they try and chase trophy airlines promising glamorous long-haul destinations," CCO, Mike Rutter stated.

November 2009: Rolls-Royce (RRC) announced an order for (Trent 700)s to power 10 Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) A330-300s. The contract, including "TotalCare" service support, is worth $720 million at list prices. Six of the airplanes were ordered directly by (VAA) and the remaining four will be leased from AerCap (DEA). Their delivery begins in 2011.

747-443 (32339) TO AEROSUR (REO).

January 2010: Airbus (EDS) said Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA)'s contract for six A330-300s was signed December 30. (VAA) announced the order, plus the lease of an additional four A330s from AerCap (DEA) for 12 years each, last June. (VAA) currently operates 19 A340-600s and six A340-300s and has six A380s on order.

Later, (VAA) cancelled its outstanding order for six A340-600s.

February 2010: Koito Industries of Yokohama was ordered by the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) to re-test some 150,000 airp-lane seats installed on around 1,000 airplanes operated by 32 airlines worldwide and make fixes if necessary. The (JCAB) accused the company of falsifying data from tests on the seats' fire and shock resistance and Koito, which is 20% owned by troubled automaker Toyota Motor Corporation, later admitted to the wrongdoing. Koito President, Takashi Kakegawa told reporters at a press conference that "the whole section in charge [of the testing] was systematically involved" in falsifying results. The (JCAB) said it has evidence the false test data dates back to the 1990s. Koito lists Japan Airlines (JAL)/(JAS), (ANA), Singapore Airlines (SIA), Continental Airlines (CAL) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) as "major customers" on its website.

Airbus (EDS) acknowledged that (EASA) barred it in September from delivering airplanes with Koito seats, according to "Bloomberg News." The European safety agency determined that the seat-maker failed to share enough pertinent data on its seats to warrant continued approval and that there was evidence of "irregularities" at Koito. (SIA) reportedly was forced to delay delivery of its 11th A380 owing to the issues surrounding Koito seats, while (ANA) said the launch of its Inspiration of Japan long-haul product aboard a 777-300ER would be postponed until April because of a delay in the development of its new premium economy seats by Koito. Thai Airways (TII) announced that it has canceled a contract with Koito, blaming repeated seat-installation problems for the delayed delivery of five A330-300s. It said the seat-maker claimed it could resolve its issues and install the seats by August, but (TII) was unwilling to continue waiting for airplanes it said have been sitting idle in Hamburg since September.

March 2010: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) said it will open a customer service office in Swansea (Wales) in September and hire more than >200 new employees. The Welsh government is investing in the project.

April 2010: The UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) and Cathay Pacific Airways (CAT) are being investigated for possible price-fixing on the London - Hong Kong route, adding that (CAT) brought the allegations to its attention. "The case concerns a number of alleged contacts between employees of the two airlines over a number of years, which it is alleged had the object of coordinating the parties' respective pricing strategies regarding passenger fares through the exchange of commercially sensitive information on pricing and other commercial matters," (OFT) said. It said it was alerted to the alleged cartel conduct by (CAT), which will gain immunity from any penalty imposed in this case owing to its cooperation. Under (OFT)'s leniency policy, the first company to report its participation in an antitrust scheme may qualify for immunity from penalties.

Ironically, (VAA) previously benefited from this rule when it alerted (OFT) to price-fixing it engaged in with (CAT) Oneworld (ONW) alliance partner British Airways (BAB) on fuel surcharges on long-haul flights between July 2004 and April 2006. A criminal trial stemming from that case against three former and one current executives at (BAB) started earlier this month. (BAB) pleaded guilty and was fined £121.5 million by (OFT) in 2007.

Both (VAA) and (CAT) have been served with a formal statement of objections, but "at this stage it should not be assumed that the parties involved have broken the law," (OFT) said. (VAA) said it "intends to robustly defend itself against these allegations dating from 2002 to 2006. The airline does not believe that it has acted in any way contrary to the interests of consumers."

July 2010: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) nearly doubled its pre-tax profit to +£68.4 million/+$108.7 million for its fiscal year ended February 28 from £34.8 million in the prior year.

CEO, Steve Ridgway said (VAA) increased profitability despite "the toughest trading environment ever" because "with some of the lowest fares ever" it is "winning market share from our competitors." He added that "load factors remain resilient as travelers take advantage of these bargain fares." (VAA) said fares are "at their lowest level in 25 years." (VAA) celebrates its 25th anniversary on June 22.

While most major international carriers have reported steep declines in business passengers, Virgin Atlantic claimed there was "an increase in the number of premium travelers choosing the airline." It also cited "prudent management decisions" taken during the year. In February it commenced consultation with staff and union representatives about the possibility of cutting 600 jobs from its workforce numbering approximately 8,500, saying it was seeking to avoid layoffs but cannot rule them out (ATWOnline, Feb. 13).

Group sales, including revenue generated by tour operator Virgin Holidays, rose 8.4% to £2.58 billion. VS said it carried 5.77 million passengers during the fiscal year. Since it is privately held, it does not release detailed earnings and traffic figures.

August 2010: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) said that the start of its current fiscal year “has been encouraging despite difficult trading conditions,” with revenue for its fiscal first quarter ended May 31 up +10% on the prior-year period to £513 million/$670 million despite the impact of April’s volcanic ash cloud. Quarterly cargo revenue was up +36% to £52 million. Passenger load factor increased +5 points to 82% LF, it said, adding that it had +15% additional first-class (F) passengers.

(VAA) also released selected data for its fiscal year ended February 28. Pre-tax operating loss for the group, which includes the airline and the tour operator, was -£132 million, reversed from an operating profit of +£60 million in the prior fiscal year. Virgin Holidays delivered a “profit” of +£24 million. Group revenue fell -8.6% to £2.36 billion. Airline operating costs were reduced by -8%.

“Along with the rest of the industry, we have just faced one of the toughest years in our history," CEO, Steve Ridgway said. "Demand is picking up across the majority of our routes and forward bookings for the summer have been very positive.” (VAA) also unveiled a new brand and corporate identity.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) announced new long haul services:
London Heathrow - Accra: 3x weekly, A340-300 service started on June 4;
Manchester - Las Vegas McCarran: 2x weekly, 747-400 service starting on April 3, 2011.

October 2010: London's Gatwick airport (LGW) has been granted permission by its local council to operate the Airbus A380. (LGW), which has already invested £43 million/$67.6 million in six new large airplane stands - two of which can accommodate the A380 - said that it received planning permission to host the airplane from the Crawley Borough Council.

The (LGW) airport, which was acquired late last year by Global Infrastructure Partners, is undergoing a £1 billion revamp. It aims to increase annual passenger numbers to 40 million from the current 32.5 million by 2018. "If we can bring the A380 and other large airplanes to (LGW), passengers will have even more reason to choose to fly to and from our airport and help us on our journey to becoming the London airport of choice," says (LGW) Chief Executive, Stewart Wingate. Prior to the revamp, (LGW) will be re-branded simply as "Gatwick Airport" and will drop the "London" from its name.

Julie Southern, CFO, for Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) has been promoted to Chief Commercial Officer (CCO).

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) dedicated the nearly two-mile long “Governor Bill Richardson Spaceway” at Spaceport America, representing significant progress toward launching commercial customers into space from the desert of New Mexico. Governor Bill Richardson, Sir Richard Branson and approximately 30 of more than >380 Virgin Galactic future astronauts attended the event along with guests from around the world and watched a flyover and landing by Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo, in a captive carry with SpaceShipTwo. - - SEE PHOTO - - "VAA-VSS ENTERPRISE-2010-10."

“We are celebrating the world’s first spaceway at the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport,” said Governor Richardson. “New Mexico is not only helping to launch the commercial spaceflight industry, but we are launching new jobs and opportunities for the people of southern New Mexico. Today marks a significant milestone on our historic and exciting journey.”

The nearly two-mile long runway was officially named the “Governor Bill Richardson Spaceway” at the event, and Governor Richardson joined Sir Richard in placing their handprints in clay as a permanent commemoration of the historic day. Chairman, Ben Woods said the board of the (NMSA) had met to formally and unanimously approve the name of the spaceway.

Sir Richard Branson commented, “It is incredible to be here with Governor Richardson and be part of the runway dedication at Spaceport America. To see for myself how far the construction has come from when I last visited New Mexico is truly inspiring – I for one can’t wait for the grand opening – today has brought it one step closer to reality for me. The last few weeks have been some of the most exciting in Virgin Galactic’s development. Our spaceship is flying beautifully and will soon be making powered flights, propelled by our new hybrid rocket motor, which is also making excellent progress in its own test program. The investment deal with our new partners Aabar has successfully closed, securing funding for the remainder of the development program and we are seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming forward to secure their own reservations for this incredible experience. To be here in New Mexico to witness this historic moment is the perfect end to a great month.”

Governor Richardson, Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Galactic future astronauts and the guests were all invited to tour the terminal hangar facility, which is nearing completion. The iconic building, meeting Gold LEED standards, will serve as the operating hub for Virgin Galactic and is expected to house up to two WhiteKnightTwos and five SpaceShipTwos, in addition to all of Virgin’s astronaut preparation facilities and mission control.

Held immediately following the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS), the Spaceport America Runway Dedication marked the culmination of “Space Week” in New Mexico, and was made possible in part thanks to premier event sponsors Summit West Construction, Gerald Martin Construction Management, AECOM, Molzen-Corbin, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the New Mexico Tourism Department. Other speakers at the event included: Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA; George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic; Patricia Hynes, Executive Director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium; and Rick Homans, Executive Director of the (NMSA).

Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA, said, “With the recent signing of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 by President Obama, it is clear that our nation’s future space efforts will be working even more closely than with the growing commercial space transportation industry,“ She added, ”Innovative approaches that foster this new commercial industry will bring more competition and opportunities that will lower the costs of spaceflight and payload services for America’s aerospace programs, and introduce new human space transportation systems.”

The 42-inch thick spaceway is designed to support nearly every type of aircraft in the world today. It is made up of 24 inches of prepared sub-grade, followed by four inches of asphalt, and finished with a 14-inch layer of concrete. The spaceway will accommodate returning launch vehicles, fly-back rocket boosters and other space launch and training vehicles.

Spaceport America has been providing commercial launch services since 2006. The state-of-the-art launch facility is under construction near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and is expected to become fully operational in 2011. Officials at Spaceport America have been working closely with their anchor tenant Virgin Galactic and other leading aerospace firms such as Lockheed Martin, Moog-FTS, Armadillo Aerospace, and UP Aerospace to develop commercial spaceflight at the new facility. The economic impact of launches, tourism and new construction at Spaceport America are already delivering on its promise to the people of New Mexico.


January 2011: Air New Zealand (ANZ) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA)
have strengthened their relationship by signing a code share
agreement on several international and domestic routes. The pair will be able to sell connecting flights on each other’s services. This will primarily include (ANZ) routes within New Zealand, between Australia and New Zealand, and some transpacific and Pacific Island routes. The code share will also apply to two of Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s long-haul Asia-Pacific routes.

The airlines still must obtain regulatory approval but expect the code share to enter force from February 28. The two carriers already have well-established interline cooperation and a reciprocal frequent flyer partnership. The code share should increase connecting traffic for both.

The specific (ANZ) routes in the code share will be: from Sydney to Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington; from Auckland to Christchurch, Wellington, Queenstown, and Rarotonga; from Los Angeles to Rarotonga; and San Francisco to Auckland. The (VAA) routes will be
London Heathrow - San Francisco and Hong Kong - Sydney.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said in December that it remained open to any opportunity to quit its stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA). The comment was made to media in Singapore after rumors of another potential bid for the airline, in which (SIA) holds a 49% stake acquired in 2000. The relationship between the two airlines has been strained for years. However, (SIA) VP Public Affairs, Nicholas Ionides said that “no decision” has been made about any divestment.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) scored a victory by winning a vote to represent pilots (FC) at (JT2). (BALPA) now represents pilots (FC) at all major UK-based airlines, including British Airways (BAB), Virgin Atlantic (VAA), easyJet (EZY), FlyBe (BEE), Monarch Airlines (MON), and TUI (TUG)’s Thomson Airways (ATZ)/(TFY).

2 A330-343Es (1201, G-VKSS; 1195, G-VSXY), ex-(F-WWKU & F-WWKY), deliveries.

March 2011: JetBlue (JBL) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) announced a transatlantic interline agreement that will allow passengers flying from (VAA)'s four UK airports to connect onto (JBL)'s USA domestic network of up to 64 cities. The agreement will cover (VAA) services from London Heathrow to Boston Logan, New York (JFK) and Washington Dulles, and from London Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester to Orlando.

April 2011: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), has for the first time in its history deployed a twin engine jet to serve on its transatlantic routes, using an A330-343E (1195, G-VSXY "Beauty Queen") airplane. The inaugural passenger flight between Manchester and Orlando, USA, is part of (VAA)’s commitment to invest in today’s greenest airplane and to strengthen services from the UK to the US East Coast, East and West Africa, the Middle East and India. The airplane is the first to be delivered from the ten A330-300s ordered in December 2009.

Julie Southern, Chief Commercial Officer for (VAA) said, “We are delighted to be welcoming the A330 to our fleet. The arrival of these new airplanes over the next two years marks a period of expansion for the airline. We look forward to increasing services on existing routes as well as adding new long haul routes with these new planes, whilst improving our fuel efficiency. These brand new airplanes will offer our customers high standards of service and comfort on board.”

(VAA)'s first two A330-300 airplanes will operate on leisure routes and will have a two class configuration of 59 Premium Economy seats and 255 in Economy featuring the airline’s award winning cabin and service and a revolutionary new in-flight entertainment system. The new cutting edge system uses the latest touchscreen technology allowing passengers to scroll and swipe through over >300 hours of content quickly and easily. It has a range of up to 5,600 nm / 10,400 km with a typical 300 passenger load. Orders for the airplane stand at more than >480. In a remarkable declaration of the twinjet's efficiency over its four-engined sister, the A340-300, (VAA) says the A330s will burn "-15% less fuel per seat".

May 2011: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) pilots (FC), represented by the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA), will vote on possible strike action over pay, (BALPA) confirmed. (BALPA) represents over >85% of (VAA)'s 750 pilots (FC).

“We do not want a dispute but to date there has been no meaningful movement by the company and even the involvement of [the government conciliation service] (ACAS) has not broken the logjam,” said (BALPA) General Secretary, Jim McAuslan, noting, “With nowhere left to go, we have been left with no alternative but to give (VAA) management notice of a ballot of (VAA) pilots (FC) for industrial action.”

He said (VAA) pilots (FC) feel “very angry and disappointed” at the way they are being treated after forgoing pay increases in the last three years. “During the tough years, pilots (FC) have made sacrifices to help the business on the basis that fair pay would return. But that hasn't proved to be the case,” he pointed out. According to (BALPA), (VAA) is offering pilots (FC) a +4% increase this year and +3% in both 2012 and 2013. “With inflation running at +5% and likely to remain high, pilots (FC) would, if they accepted these increases, be in effect voting themselves years of wage cuts. (VAA) is asking us to effectively sign up [for] five years of cuts in pay. We are not prepared to do that. We do not want a strike and have tried every way to avoid it. We regret this, but are resolute in our aim of fairness,” McAuslan added.

The ballot will commence May 24 and will run for four weeks. Results will be announced June 21. If pilots (FC) vote for a strike, they must give a formal seven-day strike notice.

More exciting news from Virgin Galactic at Mojave, USA! At 7 am, SpaceShipTwo touched down safely having completed a second “feather” flight. One further glide flight, potentially within the next week or so, will see the completion of an unprecedented period of successful test flight activity (six flights in around a month) and herald the start of a couple of months of slightly less visible activity.

Scaled has amassed a wealth of data and experience from the recent flurry of test flights which is now undergoing thorough analysis. Engineers will be addressing any issues arising from this, as well as performing detailed vehicle checks as they prepare the spaceship and carrier airplane for the next phase of flight testing. SEE ATTACHED PHOTO - - "VAA-2011-05-VIRGIN GALACTIC TEST FLIGHT."


June 2011: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will launch twice-weekly, London Gatwick - Cancun 747-400 service on June 12, 2012.

(ARINC) announced it has renewed “multiple” contracts with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), a customer since 1993. (VAA) has renewed its contracts for comprehensive data link, voice and satellite services, as well as for the (ARINC) OpCenter message management service.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo (VAA) won a contract from Strategic Airlines (STC) under which it will manage (STC)'s long-haul cargo activity and apply the Virgin brand to its twice-weekly, Brisbane A330-200 service to Phuket, as well as twice-weekly, Melbourne - Phuket and twice-weekly, Brisbane - Bali service.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) founder and Virgin Group Chairman, Sir Richard Branson warned that a pilots' (FC)'s strike would leave "an indelible scar" on (VAA), "impact customers' trust" and "damage the unique and friendly culture at (VAA)."

He called on the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), the union representing most (VAA) pilots (FC), to re-engage in talks with management to resolve the matter. (BALPA) is expected to announce dates for an industrial action following a clear vote in favor of striking over pay. Results of a vote on a possible strike action were announced recently, with (BALPA) revealing that 97% favored a work action in balloting that featured a "massive" 94% turnout.

(BALPA) represents some 85% of (VAA)'s 750 pilots (FC); it is the first time in the history of (VAA) that its pilots (FC) have voted in favor of industrial action over pay. "Pilots (FC) do not want to strike and are hugely disappointed by the company's approach. There has been no UK pilot (FC) strike for 32 years. But there comes a time when even moderate people say 'enough'," (BALPA) General Secretary, Jim McAuslan commented.

In an open letter to the pilots (FC), Branson said he was "extremely sad" about the strike threat. While offering to meet them for private talks, he forewarned that the strike "will affect jobs and it will make it very difficult for (VAA) to afford the current offer on the table."

He continued, "We are already losing business from this and are in danger of losing money again this year if the uncertainty of those travelling lasts much longer. Just look at what happened at British Airways (BAB) over the last few years." He said he looked at the details of "your offer and believe it is fair. From (VAA)'s point of view possibly a little too fair! Whilst on the subject of fairness I think it's worth you knowing I have taken no salary out of (VAA) since 2005. Since Singapore Airlines (SIA) bought into (VAA) 10 years ago, both of us have invested more money into (VAA) than we've taken out to deal with crises like 9/11 and to fund vital products and service innovation. Despite this I am still committed to continuing to support (VAA) through difficult times provided those difficulties are not self-inflicted."


July 2011: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) pilots (FC) represented by (BALPA) withdrew their threat of a strike after reaching a last-minute pay deal with management. Pilots (FC) had voted to strike for the first time in the airline's history as part of their ongoing dispute over pay and conditions with management.

(BALPA) said details of the offer will be made public once it has been communicated to its members. The offer will be put to pilots (FC) in a ballot and the result will likely be announced in three weeks. “We can confirm that negotiations are now concluded and (BALPA) will present a pay offer to its members over the coming weeks,” said (VAA). “The threat of strike action has now been removed and our flying schedule remains completely unaffected.”

(BALPA) General Secretary, Jim McAuslan said, “Pilots (FC) have never wished to inconvenience the traveling public, especially those looking forward to summer holidays. We have therefore lifted the threat of strike action.”

August 2011: The Virgin Atlantic Group reported a pre-tax operating profit of +£18.5 million/+$30 million for its financial year ended February 28, reversed from a -£132 million pre-tax operating loss in the prior fiscal year. Revenue for the group, which includes Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) and tour operator Virgin Holidays, increased +13% year-over-year to £2.7 billion.

The company, which is 51% owned by the Virgin Group and 49% by Singapore Airlines (SIA), traditionally releases very limited financial data. It said that full-year cargo revenue increased +39% to £224 million.

The closure of London Heathrow last winter and the March 2010 volcanic ash crisis cost (VAA) £40 million. It cited strong growth in business traffic and solid load factors as reasons for its recovery. “We have demonstrated the resilience of our business by weathering the toughest economic period for aviation and have now returned the business to profit,” said (CEO) Steve Ridgway. “A sharp recovery in the first half of the year has been tempered by more challenged trading in the latter period due to increased capacity in the market and high fuel prices.”

Market conditions have become “tougher with increased capacity, faltering consumer confidence and high fuel prices,” he added. “We are also seeing softer trading in the areas that are hit hardest by the continued rises in [the UK's] Air Passenger Duty, particularly on the Caribbean routes and premium economy (PY) cabins. While business (C) traffic remains strong, demand in the economy (Y) cabin is more challenged.”

Revenue rose +7.6% year-over-year to £658 million in (VAA)'s fiscal first quarter ended May 31.

Despite the uncertain outlook, (VAA) announced a £100 million investment in product development both in the air and on the ground “so that we retain and enhance our leadership in customer service and experience,” according to Ridgway. In the May quarter, (VAA) took delivery of two new Rolls-Royce (RRC) (Trent 700)-powered A330-300s, which are operating on leisure routes, and launched a twice-weekly, Manchester - Las Vegas 747-400 route.

(VAA) also settled its dispute with pilots (FC) represented by the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA), who recently voted to accept the company’s pay offer. “(VAA) pilots (FC) voted overwhelmingly for strike action in June but given some improvement on pay, against very tough trading conditions and commitments to improve lifestyle, they have now decided to settle this pay round with the future in mind,” (BALPA) General Secretary, Jim McAuslan said. The agreement includes a profit share scheme, a program to review pilot (FC) lifestyle, and a commitment to improve the way management and pilots (FC) work together.

Virgin Galactic, the world’s 1st commercial spaceline, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, has been selected by (NASA) (NAS) to provide flight opportunities for engineers, technologists and scientific researchers to fly technology payloads into space. This arrangement marks the 1st time that (NASA) has contracted with a commercial partner to provide flights into space on a suborbital spacecraft, and represents another important endorsement of the value of regular commercial space access for a wide range of science and educational applications.

The announcement came from (NASA)’s Flight Opportunities Program, funded by (NASA)’s Office of the Chief Technologist and managed out of (NASA)’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Through this program, (NASA) has already arranged the flight of several innovative scientific payloads on low-altitude rockets. With selection of Virgin Galactic as a flight provider, (NASA) will soon be able to offer the research community access to space itself.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is the only crewed suborbital vehicle in flight test today, and the only such vehicle based on a spacecraft that has already sent humans into space, the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne. Virgin Galactic offers a significantly larger cabin than any other company taking deposits today, allowing for unique technology demonstrations and research.

“The Flight Opportunities program is an efficient research program that leverages investment in private vehicles to drive new discoveries for researchers and real benefits for taxpayers,” said George Whitesides, President & (CEO) Virgin Galactic. “(NASA) leadership, the Office of the Chief Technologist and Congress deserve credit for supporting this worthy program. We look forward to providing a high-quality, cost-effective research platform for researchers and scientists over the coming years.”

With several flight providers selected, (NASA) will now be able to begin the process of offering these flight opportunities to the research community, which has already expressed very strong interest in such a novel environment. Proposals are being invited from the research community by (NASA) and are expected to span a wide variety of disciplines. (NASA)’s Flight Opportunities Program will be responsible for selecting those which go forward for flight.

These research flights mark an important milestone for Virgin Galactic. Although generally referred to as a space tourism company (Virgin Galactic has already collected >$55 million in deposits from 445 future tourist astronauts) providing access to space to researchers and their experiments is viewed by Virgin Galactic as both a future mission segment and a significant business opportunity.

To best serve (NASA) and the research community, Virgin Galactic assembled an expert team of partners to provide payload integration and flight services. This team includes: Southwest Research Institute of Texas; NanoRacks, LLC of Texas; SatWest, LLC of New Mexico and Spaceflight Services of Washington. These partner organizations bring extensive experience flying scientific experiments on high performance jet airplanes, suborbital and orbital rockets, and the International Space Station. Researchers flying experiments on board SpaceShipTwo will be able to work with these companies directly when desired to allow for the quickest paths to flight.

Virgin Galactic has appointed Kenneth H Sunshine as its first Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

In this newly created role, Sunshine will be responsible for managing the company’s financial strategy, driving growth and overseeing all finance and accounting functions as Virgin Galactic transitions from a development project to a commercially operational business.

Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Sunshine served as (CFO) at (MDA) Information Systems. He has also previously worked as (CFO) of the National Institute of Aerospace, (CFO) of Aurora Flight Sciences, Senior VP Finance at Orbital Science Corporation, and as an engineer at Draper Laboratories. Sunshine received an MBA from the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and an engineering degree from Tufts University.

Virgin Galactic President & (CEO) George Whitesides said: “We are delighted that Ken has agreed to join the company as our first (CFO) as we transition toward commercial operations. Ken brings with him a wealth of experience in the space business, including strategic planning, fundraising through the capital markets, and mergers and acquisitions. He has implemented and managed a variety of financial structures, including successful (IPO)s.” Sunshine joins Virgin Galactic as a well-capitalized business at a momentous period in its development. Test flying of the first SpaceshipTwo is well underway and the company’s future home at Spaceport America in New Mexico is at an advanced stage of construction. In addition, Virgin Galactic has taken over 440 deposits from future astronauts totaling $58 million, representing $88 million worth of future revenue.

Commenting on his appointment, Ken Sunshine added: “Virgin Galactic is the clear leader in the new commercial manned space industry, and as such, I can think of nowhere I would rather be working. I join a company which is properly funded by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, with proven technology, and an impressive order book of future astronauts. I very much look forward to playing a full part in bringing this incredible project to fruition with a particular focus on its commercial success – not only to deliver value to our shareholders but to help pave the way for a new and thriving industry.”

September 2011: To date, all test flights of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo have been piloted by Scaled Composite’s cadre of talented test pilots. WhiteKnightTwo took to the air for the 72nd time last month; it was a special flight for Virgin Galactic because at the controls, for the very first time, was Chief Test pilot, Dave Mackay. Dave joined Virgin Galactic in 2009 following a high-flying aviation career as an (RAF) (RRR) test pilot and a Virgin Atlantic (VAA) Captain.

Speaking from Mojave after a successful flight, Dave said:
“It was really interesting to finally sample this amazing machine at first hand and to begin to get to know it properly. There is no doubt its performance is truly remarkable and although there may be some challenges in operating such an unconventional airplane, working around those in return for its designed-in simplicity and reliability is a trade I’d always be willing to accept. I was able to fly WhiteKnight through the full extent of its flight envelope (to its maximum altitude, speed and crosswind limit) so it was a very thorough first look. I hope to get to know it even better in the next few weeks and months but I am delighted to be able to say that Virgin Galactic has got itself an exceptional airplane.”

Sir Richard Branson hopes to launch a vessel into space within the next 12 months, kicking off an era of commercial space travel. “The mother ship is finished. The rocket tests are going extremely well, and so I think that we’re now on track for a launch within 12 months of today,” he told television's (CNN)’s Piers Morgan this month. “This could be the beginning of a whole new era of space travel, which will be commercial space travel.”

His company, Virgin Galactic, hopes to one day send people into space and launch satellites for a fraction of the cost of government-run programs, as well as eventually offering high-speed intercontinental flights. “About an hour between Los Angeles and London is not completely out of the question,” Branson said, adding that it will likely take many years before the company can offer such a service.

In the meantime, Virgin (VAA) has sold some 430 tickets for space travel (at $200,000 a pop) for an estimated $86 million. “It’s not a cheap thing to build a spaceship company and it’s been fantastic to have people all over the world sign up,” Branson said.

The company plans to begin by taking tourists on sub orbital flights before eventually soaring higher. Branson has said in the past he hopes to one day build a hotel in space.

A number of private companies are rushing to fill the gap left by NASA, which ended its 30-year shuttle program in July with the completion of the final Atlantis mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Earlier this year, the USA Space Agency distributed nearly $270 million in seed money to four companies (Boeing (TBC), SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin) to boost their bids to be first in the new space era.

October 2011: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) CEO, Steve Ridgeway said (VAA) is interested in acquiring loss-making British Midland International (BMA)) from the Lufthansa (DLH) Group.

"(BMA) is very much up for sale and we are part of that process," he told "Bloomberg." "We would like to see if there is a way of putting these two businesses together." (DLH) is widely believed to be interested in offloading (BMA).

Ridgeway told "Bloomberg" that (VAA) and (BMA) "are complementary businesses." He emphasized that "nothing is decided at the moment."

(VAA) announced the development of a world-first low carbon aviation fuel with just half the carbon footprint of the standard fossil fuel alternative. The ground breaking partnership with LanzaTech represents a breakthrough in aviation fuel technology that will see waste gases from industrial Steel production being captured, fermented and chemically converted using Swedish Biofuels technology for use as a jet fuel.

The revolutionary fuel production process recycles waste gases that would otherwise be burnt into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Within two to three years (VAA) plans flights with the new fuel on its routes from Shanghai and Delhi to London Heathrow as LanzaTech and partners develop facilities in China and India.

The technology is currently being piloted in New Zealand, a larger demonstration facility will be commissioned in Shanghai this year, and the first commercial operation will be in place in China by 2014. Following successful implementation, a wider roll-out could include operations in the UK and the rest of the world.

LanzaTech estimates that its process can apply to 65% of the world’s steel mills, allowing the fuel to be rolled out for worldwide commercial use.

The energy company believes that this process can also apply to metals processing and chemical industries, growing its potential considerably further. Speaking as he announced the partnership today, the President of (VAA), Sir Richard Branson, said: “We were the first commercial airline to test a bio-fuel flight and we continue to Lead the airline industry as the pioneer of sustainable aviation. This partnership to produce a next generation, low-carbon aviation fuel is a major step towards radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we are excited about the savings that this technology could help us achieve.

With oil running out, it is important that new fuel solutions are sustainable, and with the steel industry alone able to deliver over 15 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, the potential is very exciting. This new technology is scalable, sustainable and can be commercially produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel.”

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will be the first airline to use this fuel and will work with LanzaTech, Boeing and Swedish Biofuels towards achieving the technical approval required for using new fuel types in commercial aircraft.

A ‘demo’ flight with the new fuel is planned in 12-18 months.

This next generation technology overcomes the complex land use issues associated with some earlier generation biofuels – and detailed analysis suggests the fuel will produce around a -50% saving in lifecycle carbon emissions.

The Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), the leading international body to ensure the sustainability of biofuels production, will advise the team to ensure the fuel produced meets key environmental, social and economic criteria.

(VAA) believes that this development will take the airline well beyond its pledge of a -30% carbon reduction per passenger km by 2020.

Virgin Galactic (VGC) is pleased to announce the appointment of former (NASA) Executive, Michael P Moses as the VP of Operations. Just days prior to the dedication of the company’s operational headquarters at Spaceport America in New Mexico, (VGC) has named the highly respected human space flight leader to oversee the planning and execution of all operations at the site of the company’s commercial suborbital spaceflight program.

Following a distinguished career in (NASA)’s recently-retired Space Shuttle Program, Moses brings to Virgin Galactic (VGC) a proven record of safe, successful and secure human spaceflight missions, spaceport operations, and human spaceflight program leadership. He served at the (NASA) Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the Launch Integration Manager from 2008 until the landing of the final Shuttle mission in July 2011. He was responsible for supervising all Space Shuttle processing activities from landing through launch, and for reviewing major milestones including final readiness for flight.

He also served as chair of the Mission Management Team and provided ultimate launch decision authority for the final 12 missions of the Space Shuttle Program, directly overseeing the safe and successful flights of 75 astronauts.

Moses will develop and lead the team responsible for (VGC) spaceship operations and logistics, flight crew operations, customer training, and spaceport ground operations, with overall operational safety and risk management as the primary focus.

“Bringing Mike in to lead the team represents a significant investment in our commitment to operational safety and success as we prepare to launch commercial operations,” said (VGC) President & CEO, George Whitesides. “His experience and track record in all facets of spaceflight operations are truly unique. His forward-thinking perspective to bring the hard-won lessons of human spaceflight into our operations will benefit us tremendously.”

Prior to his most recent (NASA) role, Moses served as a Flight Director at the (NASA) Johnson Space Center, where he led teams of Flight Controllers in the planning, training and execution of all aspects of Space Shuttle missions. Before being selected as a Flight Director in 2005, Moses had over >10 years experience as a Flight Controller in the Shuttle Propulsion and Electrical Systems Groups.

Moses said, “I am extremely excited to be joining (VGC) at this time, helping to forge the foundations that will enable routine commercial suborbital spaceflights. (VGC) will expand the legacy of human spaceflight beyond traditional government programs into the world’s first privately funded commercial spaceline.”

Moses holds a bachelors degree in Physics from Purdue University, a masters degree in space sciences from Florida Institute of Technology and a masters degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University. He is a two-time recipient of the (NASA) Outstanding Leadership Medal as well as other (NASA) commendations and awards.

November 2011: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will operate 4X-weekly, London Heathrow - Vancouver service between May 2012 - October 2012.


December 2011: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) and the Lufthansa (DLH) Group (LH) signed a terms and conditions contract on the sale of (DLH’s loss-making UK subsidiary, British Midland (bmi) (BMA).

The agreement follows a similar accord inked between (DLH) and British Airways’ (BAB)'s parent, the International Airlines Group (IAG) last month.

(VAA)’s long-standing interest in (BMA) is based on its conviction that (BAB)’s position at London Heathrow (LHR) is too strong. The purchase of (BMA) could increase (BAB)’s share of slots at (LHR) to 53%, although regulators most likely will require some slot divestments.

“British Airways’ (BAB)'s hold over (LHR) is already too dominant and we are very concerned (as the competition authorities should also be) that (BAB)’s purchase of (BMA) would be disastrous for consumer choice and competition,” a (VAA) spokesman told UK media. “We believe that our offer will lead to the best outcome for the millions of consumers that fly in and out of (LHR) every year.”

The agreement with (IAG) did not contain an exclusivity clause but granted the holding company access to conduct due diligence on (BMA), a (DLH) spokesperson said. “We did the same with Virgin (VAA),” he explained. “Our aim is to find the [best] solution for Lufthansa (DLH) and for (BMA).”

Later, however, British Airways (BA) owner, the International Airlines Group (IAG) reached a binding agreement with the Lufthansa Group (LH) to buy British Midland Ltd (bmi) (BMA), the companies announced on December 22nd.

(IAG), the parent company of (BAB) and Iberia (IBE), will pay €207 million/$271 million in cash for the loss making (BMA), although the price is subject to significant reductions if (DLH) decides not to sell bmi subsidiary, bmibaby (BMI) before completion, the (IAG) said.

The deal is subject to regulatory clearance from competition authorities, including the European Commission (EC).

The companies said they aim to complete the transaction during the first quarter of 2012.

(DLH) has the option to sell bmibaby (BMI) and bmi regional before the deal is completed. (IAG) CEO, Willie Walsh said bmi regional and bmibaby (BMI) “are not part” of the company’s plans. “Buying (BMA)’s mainline business gives (IAG) a unique opportunity to grow at London Heathrow (LHR), one of our key hub airports. Using the slot portfolio more efficiently provides the option to launch new long-haul routes to key trading nations, while supporting our broad domestic and short-haul network,” he said.

The deal follows an agreement in principle signed in early November. (DLH) also held negotiations with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), which said it would ask anti-trust regulators to block the deal.

“Claiming that this deal is about new markets from Heathrow is a smoke screen. This deal simply cuts consumer choice,” (VAA) Chairman Sir Richard Branson said. “(BAB) is already dominant at (LHR) and their removal of (BMA) just tightens their stranglehold at the world’s busiest international airport. We will fight this monopoly every step of the way, as we think it is bad for the consumer, bad for the industry and bad for Britain,” he said.

The purchase of (BMA) will increase (IAG)’s number of slots at Heathrow by up to 56 daily pairs at an airport where it already holds about 43% of the slots.

(BMA) reported an operating loss of -€154 million/-$205 million in the first nine months of 2011, widened from a €90 million deficit in the year-ago period.

Walsh warned that “there is an urgent need to restructure” (BMA), but he said “(IAG)’s purchase of (BMA) will protect more British jobs than if the airline had been closed and had its Heathrow slots sold off.”

(DLH) CEO & Chairman, Christoph Franz said, “As part of Lufthansa (DLH)’s strategic development, the sale means that our customers, shareholders and employees will benefit from a sharpened corporate profile and a stronger financial position of the group.”

(DLH) will remain responsible for (BMA) staff pension liabilities.

The "Carbon War Room," funded by Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) founder, Sir Richard Branson, launched a web and information site aimed at reducing the use of traditional jet fuels by as much as -50%.

Branson announced the creation of a ranking system for airlines that use biofuels with the largest publisher of scientific information, Reed Elsevier Plc, owner of the LexisNexis database, during climate talks in Durban. The online resource contains information about the sector and facilitates contact between producers of biofuels and the aviation industry as “the airline industry generates about 2 to 3% of carbon emissions” said Suzanne Hunt of the Huntgreen environmental agency, based in Washington, DC.

“This might not sound like much but it is accelerating very fast,” Hunt said. “We started talking to buyers and producers of aviation fuel and discovered that the technology is ready and demand outstrips supply, but that there was not much information available that would connect buyers and producers.”

The Carbon War Room teamed with Elsevier as “we know that a lot of the solutions to the energy problems have to come from new technologies,” said Jan Paul Grolle of Elsevier. Interviews with hundreds of people working in the alternative energy sector “indicated they lack reliable information.”

The request was to make sure that any information is organized by experts, reviewed and made available. “And we are not only talking about jet fuel but also other biofuel sectors” Grolle said.

“The biggest problem at the moment is the high price of renewable energy,” Hunt said, “but if demand increases, the price can come down. Producers also lack access to finance, and we are facilitating contact between investors and producers.”

Northwest Aerospace Technologies and Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO) have been selected by Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) to provide cabin reconfigurations for its Gatwick airport (LGW) based fleet of 747-400s. Modifications include new seating, new in-flight entertainment (IFE) with connectivity, plus new interior furnishing and decor.

January 2012: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will launch service to Cancun and Vancouver this summer.

(VAA) is currently hiring Cabin Attendants (CA).

(VAA) has dry-leased one of its A330-300s to USA charter specialist Ryan International Airlines (RYN).

March 2012: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will launch daily, London Heathrow - Mumbai A330 service on October 28.

The (UK) government has confirmed the Air Passenger Duty (APD) will rise to 8% April 1 as previously announced, despite strong lobbying from airlines, airports and the tourist industry to cancel the tax. It is also keeping plans for a further “inflationary” increase in the (APD) from April 2013.

“At a time when the government talks about creating jobs and growth, its blinkered insistence on further increases in Air Passenger Duty (APD) achieves precisely the opposite,” (IAG)/(BAB) (CEO), Willie Walsh; easyJet (EZY) (CEO), Carolyn McCall; Ryanair (RYR) (CEO), Michael O'Leary; and Virgin Atlantic (VAA) (CEO), Steve Ridgway said in a joint statement.

The (UK) (APD) is one of the highest air travel taxes in the world. It is calculated on a four-band structure and varies from £13/$20.63 for an economy-class (Y) ticket in Europe, to £92 for a ticket to a "Band D" destination (over >6,000 miles). The amounts are doubled for a ticket in premium economy (PY), business (C) or first class (F).

“In every other leading country, aviation is an expanding industry that underpins and facilitates growth in other parts of the economy. In the (UK), rises of up to +360% in (APD) in the last seven years are squeezing the life out of the economy. The [(UK) Civil Aviation Authority] (CAA) has confirmed that (UK) passenger numbers last year were the same as in 2004,” the (CEO)s of the country’s four largest airlines added. They argue the “(APD) must be scrapped.”

Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) (CEO), Mike Carrivick described the decision to stick to the (APD) hike a “reckless brake” on the economy. “A policy of disproportionately high air travel taxation and a failed aviation policy provide two glaring examples of how the government’s aim for economic recovery is being damaged by its own doing,” he said.

The Airport Operators Association said it was “dismayed” at the (APD) decision. The (UK) government also confirmed it will proceed with plans to bring executive jets into (APD) from April 2013, as outlined in December.

On a more positive note, Chancellor, George Osborne said the country had to “confront the lack of capacity in the southeast of England.”

April 2012: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has appealed the decision by the European Commission (EC) to allow British Airways (BAB) to take over bmi british midland (BMA) saying the approval would cause "serious harm" to competition in the (UK).

A330-343 (1296, G-VRAY - - SEE PHOTO - - "VAA-A330-343 - 2012-04"), EX-(F-WWKF) delivery.

May 2012: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will cease service to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi from September 23. (VAA) cited increasing costs and a challenging economic background in both the UK and the African nation as the reasons for the decision.

“Despite the best efforts of our employees, external factors including the high price of fuel, increasing aviation taxes in the UK and insufficient passenger numbers throughout the past five years have contributed to the decision,” (VAA) Chief Commercial Officer, Julie Southern said.

(VAA) Executive Chairman, Sir Richard Branson added he was “extremely sad to be withdrawing from Kenya . . . We hope to return should the economic situation change.”

Can't go six or seven hours without making a phone call? Lucky for you, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is launching a service this month that will help ease your disconnection anxiety. Its new AeroMobile service will let passengers aboard select airplanes make phone calls and send text messages from their cellphones during flight.

The service will first be available on (VAA)'s A330 planes flying the London-to-New York route, though (VAA) says it will expand to 10 routes by the end of the year. The service will be available on its 747s currently under refurbishment. (VAA) will offer the phone, text, email and web (GPRS) service on nearly 20 airplanes by the end of the year.

AeroMobile creates a small cellular network within the airplane that manages the on board connection. The plane then bounces the necessary signals to satellites, which in turn communicate with networks on the ground.

By creating a cellular network within the plane, it means cellphones will operate at the low end of their power range because of the proximity of the cell. In other words, it is safe to operate and use the service. Typically, cellphones that are switched on during flight ramp up their radio output trying to reach the ground-based cellular networks. This is what may interfere with cockpit instrumentation.

Using cellphones during takeoff and landing will still be prohibited. (VAA)'s flight crew (FC) will alert passengers when it is safe to use their phones to make calls. Be aware, however, that it is currently illegal to make cellular calls from airplanes in USA air space. The service won't be available on (VAA)'s planes until (VAA) flights departing New York are 250 miles from official USA airspace. On flights headed from London to New York, the service will automatically cut off at the appropriate distance from the USA. (VAA) didn't say if it will provide a warning ahead of the cutoff (Some USA airlines offer Web access during flight).

According to (VAA), AeroMobile will be available to any cellphone that is enabled for international roaming. Voice calls and text messages will work, and (VAA) says that BlackBerrys will be able to receive/send email. (VAA) recommends that other devices, however, keep their data roaming set to "off" in order to avoid exorbitant data roaming fees. (BlackBerrys are much more efficient than other platforms when it comes to handling data).

If you're worried about cost, you should be. (VAA) says that the service will cost the same as any other international roaming voice call. Many international calls start at about $1.29 - $1.49 per minute and go up dramatically, depending on which country and which type of phone (landline versus mobile) is being called.

All the charges will be sent back to the callers' wireless bill at the end of the month, which means you won't know how much you've spent making calls from the plane until long after you return from the trip.

Of course, this all assumes that you are OK with the idea of making voice calls from airplanes.

Only six passengers at a time will be able to use the system, which (VAA) says is intended “for use in exceptional situations.’’ Passengers will be able to send text messages, make a call, or access e-mail on mobile devices. An airline spokesman could not say how much a call would cost.

Initially, the service (which utilizes a satellite connection) will only be available for customers of European cellphone providers O2 and Vodafone and USA carrier T-Mobile.

(VAA) selected Greg Dawson as Director Corporate Communications, effective June 7. Dawson is currently Director Communications for Travelodge Hotels.

June 2012: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) expanded its Caribbean network as it launched its first route to Mexico on 12 June. From its London Gatwick (LGW) base, (VAA) now flies twice-weekly to Cancun (CUN) with 451-seat, 747-400 airplanes. Competition comes from British Airways (BAB)’s three flights a week as well as leisure airlines Thomson Airways (TFY)/(ATZ)’s five and Thomas Cook (JMA)/(GUE)’s two weekly operations. Sir Richard Branson, President of (VAA) commented: “Cancun is one of the top five long-haul leisure destinations for UK travellers, so we are delighted to be able to add this route to network. This route launch further cements our position as the UK’s leading long haul leisure airline.”

(VAA) (CEO), Steve Ridgway has said that (VAA) would be eyeing additional destinations in China besides Shanghai Pudong International airport (PVG) and flights to South America, which it currently does not serve at all.

The UK-based Virgin Group, parent company of Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), has sold its 10% stake in Malaysia’s AirAsia X (ASX), the long-haul, low-cost carrier (LCC).

The move comes as the Virgin Group realigns its investments to concentrate more closely on its own brand. “We can confirm that Virgin Group has sold its 10% stake in AirAsia X (ASX),” External Relations Director, Nick Fox said. “The terms of the deal remain confidential. We sold to existing shareholders.”

The company added: “The Virgin Group has a large number of new and exciting investment opportunities in development. We now prioritize resources where we can have the most impact and also use the Virgin brand.

“While AirAsia X (ASX) has been a very successful investment for us, it does not use the Virgin brand and we feel it is the right time to exit to focus on our branded portfolio. We are proud to have worked with [AirAsia (ASW) (CEO)] Tony [Fernandes] to develop the initial business case for AirAsia X (ASX) and wish them well for the future.”

(ASX) did not immediately comment on (VAA)’s sale of its shareholding. According to Malaysian financial newspaper "The Edge," the shareholding has been sold to AirAsia (ASW) and Malaysian company Aero Ventures for around $21 million. Aero Ventures is a holding company established by Fernandes and others to invest in aviation-related projects.

(ASX) is an associate long-haul carrier of regional (LCC) Air Asia (ASW). (VAA) originally took a 20% stake in the company in 2007.

July 2012: London Gatwick Airport (LGW) is expected to hit its 45 million-passenger ceiling by 2030, according to a new master plan released by owners Global Infrastructure Partners.

(LGW), which claims to be the UK’s second busiest airport, handles around 34 million passengers a year. The report suggests this number will grow to around 40 million by 2021 to 2022. “Gatwick could, by 2030, handle around 45 million passengers a year, at which point the airport would be full,” said (LGW), which plans to invest a further £1 billion/$1.56 billion from 2014.

While (CEO) Stewart Wingate said the airport is “committed to honoring” an agreement that blocks the airport from adding a second runway before 2019, he added: “We need to anticipate that, in the long term, a second runway at Gatwick may be needed. This means we will continue to work in partnership with our local authorities to safeguard land for future expansion.”

Today’s report marks the finalization of (LGW)’s draft master plan, which has been under consultation since it was published in October 2011. The main issues that were raised during the process related to surface transport and noise.

easyJet (EZY) has applied for traffic rights to be able to launch flights from its largest base at London Gatwick (LGW) to Moscow which would be its first destination in Russia. British Airways (BAB) and subsidiary, bmi British Midland (BMA) currently serve Moscow Domodedovo International (DME) from London Heathrow (LHR), while Aeroflot (ARO) (from Moscow Sheremetyevo International airport (SVO)) and Transaero Airlines (TRX) (from Domodedovo airport (DME)) are the Russian carriers serving Heathrow (LHR). Currently, the bilateral agreement allows for two UK carriers to operate between the two cities with one spot becoming available following the acquisition of (BMA) by British Airways (BAB). Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has also made its intention public earlier already to operate from Heathrow to Domodedovo with A330-300s.

August 2012: The Virgin Atlantic Group, which includes Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), recorded an operating loss of -£80.2 million/-$120.3 million for the 2011 - 2012 financial year, compared to a +£18.5 million operating profit for the preceding year.

Revenues increased +3% to £2.74 billion at the Group, which traditionally does not separate out figures for the airline and releases limited financial information.

Load factor was down around -2% at 78% LF, due to a +6% increase in capacity. Cargo revenue was up +7% at £239.6 million.

“In an incredibly challenging market, we have managed to grow top line revenues and fly more customers than last year,” (VAA) (CEO), Steve Ridgway said. “However, with the prevailing uncertainty in the economy, sky-high fuel prices and a +25% hike in our air passenger duty fees, converting this sales growth into profit has not been possible.”

A renewed cost-reduction drive is underway, which aims to reduce operating costs by -£50 million in the current year.

“We have had an encouraging start to the year, continuing to grow our passenger numbers and our revenue,” Ridgway said.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) has always had an independent approach and part of (VAA)'s DNA is giving British Airways (BAB) a run for its money. But competing with its larger archrival is becoming increasingly difficult as (BAB) has considerably enlarged its London Heathrow airport slot portfolio through the acquisition of bmi (BMA), giving it more scope to grow at the congested airport. (BAB) also benefits from antitrust immunity with its Oneworld (ONW) alliance partners on trans-Atlantic routes.

Passenger growth at (VAA) has stalled as economic uncertainty has settled over Europe. (VAA) accrued a pre-tax operating loss of -GBP80.2 million in its latest fiscal year ending 28-February-2012, reversing a +GBP18.5 million profit recorded in the previous 12 months. Revenue for the Group, which includes Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) and tour operator Virgin Holidays, rose +3% year-over-year in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 to GBP2.74 billion but, as (CEO), Steve Ridgway noted, “with the prevailing uncertainty in the economy, sky high fuel prices and a +25% hike in our air passenger duty fees, converting this sales growth into profit has not been possible”.

The UK has an astronomical high Air Passenger Duty (APD) and this has been rising despite protests from the industry. The latest increase took effect on 01-April-2012 following on a steep increase on 01-November-2010, and the tax now can be as high as GBP130 for a flight in business class (C) to the USA and GBP162 to India for passengers departing from a London airport. (VAA)'s (ADP) collection increased by +25% to GBP195 million in (FY) 2012.

More rumors about a change in strategy and ownership at (VAA) followed in 2010 when both Mr Ridgway and (VAA) Chairman, Sir Richard Branson said the company might be open to consolidation. Sir Richard’s Virgin Group holds 51% in (VAA), while the remaining 49% is held by the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group, which has publicly admitted on several occasions that its shareholding in the UK carrier is no longer of strategic value and it is looking at several options, including a divestiture. It bought the stake in 1999 for GBP600.25 million.

There have also been rumors about a combination with easyJet (EZY), as both (VAA) and (EZY) have a base at Gatwick Airport and the tie-up would provide a powerful antidote for (BAB)’s new ambitions at the London airport.

(VAA) operates the vast majority of its weekly seat capacity on routes to North America. Its network spans 33 non-stop passenger destinations of which 11 are in North America, eight in Central America and the Caribbean, four in Africa, one in the Middle East and eight in the Asia-Pacific region.

(VAA) commenced two new routes with the introduction of its summer schedule, a four times weekly seasonal route from London Heathrow to Vancouver that launched 24-May-2012 and a twice weekly service from London Gatwick to Cancun that began on 07-July-2012. New service to Mumbai from Heathrow is scheduled to begin in October-2012. (VAA) has also announced its intent to add Moscow to its network, and will partner with Russian carrier Transaero (TRX) through a code share on the service. (VAA)'s code share agreement with (TRX) starts mid-October, with (VAA) placing its two-letter code on twice-daily, (TRX) services between Moscow (DME) and London Heathrow (LHR). In late October, the (TRX) code will be placed on (VAA) flights from (LHR) to Los Angeles, California; San Francisco, California; Boston, Massachusetts and Orlando, Florida. (VAA) also plans to cut flights from Heathrow to Nairobi on 24-September-2012.

(VAA) operates from four UK airports, but its main operating base is at London Heathrow. It operates some 97,000 seats per week from Heathrow, 31,000 from London Gatwick and just under 10,000 from Manchester. (VAA) operates a single route from Glasgow International Airport, a once weekly flight to Orlando International. (VAA) strives to have balance between leisure flying out of Manchester and Gatwick supported by Virgin Holidays and a more business-oriented offering out of London Heathrow.

(VAA) has always argued that (BAB) has a dominant position at the airport and it has fiercely, although unsuccessfully, lobbied against the antitrust immunity enjoyed by (BAB) and its Oneworld (ONW) alliance partners, primarily American Airlines (AAL) on trans-Atlantic routes. In addition, (BAB), (AAL) and Iberia (IBE) have a joint-venture agreement to share revenue, coordinate networks and schedules and cooperate commercially on routes between the (EU), Norway and Switzerland and the USA, Canada, Mexico and US territories.

(BAB) indeed is the dominant carrier at Heathrow and offers about 820,000 seats per week from the airport. This gives it a 46% capacity share whereas (VAA) is the second largest carrier in terms of weekly seat capacity with a mere 5% share.

In terms of flight movements, the distance between (VAA) and its archrival is even larger. (BAB) operates 51% of all incoming and departing flights from Heathrow, while (VAA) takes only a fourth position with less than <5%. (VAA) operates approximately 300 flights per week and (BAB), which has a large short and medium-haul network feeding its long-haul, operates almost 4,700 weekly flights.

(VAA) competes with (BAB) on most of its routes and all but one of its 10 largest routes. As (BAB) does not operate long-haul from Manchester, (VAA) is relieved from a (BAB) presence on its Manchester - Orlando International Airport service, which it operates aboard its new A330-300 with a daily frequency. (VAA) also operates from Manchester to Las Vegas McCarran International and to Bridgetown.

UK airports operator (BAA) has agreed to sell London Stansted (STN), dropping further appeals in the legal battle with the UK Competition Commission’s (CC) ruling the airport should be sold.

(BAA), which earlier this month vowed it would appeal to the UK Supreme Court, now said it would proceed with the sale of (STN) but declined to give a timetable. (BAA) said: While “we still believe that the Competition Commission (CC) ruling fails to recognize that Stansted and Heathrow serve different markets,” it had decided not to proceed with the further appeal. “It’s just the case that there are no further areas to argue,” a (BAA) spokeswoman said.

The (CC) in 2009 said (BAA) should sell (STN), London Gatwick (LGW) and Edinburgh (EDI) airports, leaving (BAA) with London Heathrow, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports. (LGW) and (EDI) were subsequently acquired by Global Infrastructure Partners.

(BAA) had objected to selling (STN) and launched a series of legal appeals, the most recent of which was rejected by the UK Court of Appeal less than a month ago. (STN), some 30 miles northeast of London, primarily handles low-cost carrier (LCC) and charter flights. Annual passenger throughput is around 17 million.

London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) is undertaking a three-month public consultation on its proposed implementation of Precision Area Navigation (P-RNAV). (P-RNAV) is a navigation specification that exploits the improved airborne navigation capabilities of modern airplanes to require a track-keeping accuracy of ±1 nautical mile (compared with ±5 nautical miles for the next best standard) for at least 95% of the flight time. It facilitates much more accurate track-keeping within terminal airspace and has been trialed on a limited basis at (LGW) for six years.

The consultation aims to solicit views on the proposed implementation of (P-RNAV) on all current departure routes and the process for transitioning all (LGW) departures onto the new standard of navigation within five years. This is in line with UK Civil Aviation Authority policy that effectively requires all conventional departure routes from UK airports to be replaced with a minimum of a (P-RNAV) standard.

The consultation will run through October 19; responses will be accepted until November 2. Direct consultations are also underway with the airport’s consultative committee and political representatives in the proposed affected areas, and a number of public events are planned for the relevant noise-affected communities.

London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) said it welcomed the decision of its former owner (BAA) to drop its appeal to the Supreme Court and agree to sell Stansted Airport (STN), in compliance with a 2009 UK Competition Commission (CC) ruling to sell both (LGW) and (STN) airports. “This decision will increase competition in the airport market and improve customer service,” (LGW) said.

The airport is now urging the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to allow “a truly competitive market to flourish by deregulating the market.” It said the Civil Aviation Bill aimed at modernizing the regulatory framework for civil aviation in the UK (which is progressing through the parliamentary process and should become law in 2013) was “a game-changing opportunity to remove the 25-year-old economic regulatory burden which was imposed when the (BAA) had a monopoly.”

(LGW) argues that its sale two-and-a-half years ago to a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder, “illustrates the benefits that can be delivered to passengers as a result of airports being under separate ownership. The sale of Stansted will bring greater competition between the London airports, which can only mean good news for passengers,” it said.

(LGW) (CEO), Stewart Wingate said: “(LGW)’s transformation over the last two-and-a-half years has clearly shown the real benefit of not being part of the (BAA). The (CAA) now needs to remove the unnecessary burden of economic regulation imposed when the (BAA) was a monopoly and which threatens to restrict full competition and investment which will benefit passengers and airlines.”

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will aim to launch daily, London Heathrow - Moscow A330 service in 2013.

(VAA)) will enter the short-haul market next year when it launches a 3X-daily, Manchester (MAN) - London Heathrow (LHR) service from March 2013. The route, which will use three wet-leased A319s, will compete with British Airways (BAB) on the domestic trunk route. It will use two slots currently leased to Cyprus Airways (CYP), so there is no impact on (VAA)’s long-haul schedules at heavily slot-constrained (LHR).

Future routes will depend on (VAA) winning the “remedy slots” that (BAB) has been ordered to divest by European competition authorities as part of the deal to acquire British Midlands International (BMA).

The (MAN) - (LHR) route will act as a feeder for (VAA)’s long-haul services. It pointed out that some 65% of passengers traveling from the northwest English city to (LHR) connect to onward flights. “We have the means to connect thousands of passengers to our long-haul network as well as to destinations served by other carriers,” (VAA) (CEO), Steve Ridgway said.

The Virgin Group, parent to (VAA), has been in the short-haul market before. In 1996, it bought EuroBelgian Airlines, rebranding as Virgin Express before merging in 2007 with SN Brussels Airlines (DAT), which became Brussels Airlines (DAT)/(EBA). (DAT)/(EBA) is now an affiliate of the Lufthansa (DLH) Group, which has a 45% stake in the Belgian carrier (DAT)/(EBA). The Virgin Group also retains a stake.

September 2012: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) is applying to acquire all 12 London slots of British Midland International (BMA) that British Airways (BAB) has to give up. After announcing its new London Heathrow (LHR) flights to Manchester, (VAA) now may add oil market Aberdeen, Edinburgh, bigger oil-market Moscow, and Nice. Regarding trans-Atlantic, (VAA) is adding a 4th New York (JFK) flight from (LHR) in October,and will develop more New York to Africa connections such as Accra, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Lagos. (VAA) also has interline and frequent flier deals with Virgin USA (VUS).

(VAA) has unveiled plans for a series of London to Scotland routes as it seeks to extend UK domestic service. (VAA) announced last month it will launch a 3X-daily, London Heathrow (LHR) - Manchester (MAN) service in March 2013.

Unlike the (MAN) service, which will use existing (VAA) slots, the proposed services (from (LHR) to Edinburgh (EDI) and Aberdeen (ABZ)) will depend on the European Commission’s (EC) decision on which airline will receive the 12 remedy slot pairs that British Airways (BAB) had to surrender after (BAB) parent, the International Airlines Group purchased British Midland International (BMA). (VAA) has put in a bid for all the slots. The (EC) decision is expected later this year.

A (VAA) spokesman said that, if the bid is successful, it will allocate seven of the slot pairs to the two destinations, but it has not yet decided how to split the seven between (EDI) and (ABZ).

(VAA) claims the number of (LHR) - (EDI) flights will drop by around one-quarter and (LHR) - (ABZ) flights will drop by about one-third, due to the (BAB) acquisition, which left (BAB) as the sole operator on the routes.

(VAA) said it would restore competition on the routes and believes it can fly up to 700,000 passengers annually on them. “Our aim is to reach a significant new base of both direct and connecting passengers,” (VAA) (CEO), Steve Ridgway said. (VAA) hopes to use the services, at least partially, as feeders for its long-haul services.
(VAA) will wet lease three A319s for the proposed domestic services.

(VAA) is planning to move its daily service from London Heathrow (LHR) to Tokyo Narita New Tokyo International (NRT) over to Tokyo Haneda airport (HND) from spring 2014 when UK and Japanese carriers will be able to serve the more popular airport closer to Tokyo's city center during daytime. Currently, carriers from both countries are already able to serve Haneda on flights between Japan and the UK, but only during less attractive times in the early mornings or late evenings. British Airways (BAB) is the only carrier currently serving the route from Heathrow to Haneda operating with a 777-200ER five times weekly.

The decision follows the announcement of plans to develop (HND)’s international terminal, which is opening up daylight slots for long-haul carriers from spring 2014. (HND) is Tokyo’s oldest airport, dating back to before World War II. Just 14 km from the city center, it is linked by Metro to the rest of the capital. (NRT), which is nearly 60 km from the city center, opened in 1978 and virtually all international airlines relocated there, leaving the heavily congested (HND) as a primarily domestic facility. However, in 2010, a new international terminal was opened at (HND) to coincide with the completion of a fourth runway, and international carriers have been drifting back to the Tokyo Bay site since then.

At the Japan/UK air service talks in London earlier this year, British and Japanese governments agreed that (from the summer season 2014) nighttime operating restrictions at (HND) would be relaxed and that limited international movements would be permitted during daylight hours, providing airlines retained a commercial presence at (NRT).

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) has become the launch customer for (ARINC)’s Cabin Connect, which enables passengers to access the Internet, send and receive email and use universal messaging through their own portable electronic devices via (ARINC) SwiftBroadband Wi-Fi Internet hotspots. The first airplane to be equipped with Cabin Connect will be a (VAA) A330 in the first quarter of 2013.

SwiftBroadband is an IP-based packet-switched service with “always-on” data connectivity provided by (ARINC) in conjunction with Inmarsat. It provides oceanic satellite coverage, simultaneous voice and broadband data, and enables all key cockpit and cabin applications, including telephony, text messaging, e-mail, Internet and intranet access, as well as flight plan, weather, and chart updates.

Lufthansa Technik (DLH) (LTK) signed an eight-year airplane maintenance services contract with Virgin Atlantic (VAA), extending an existing agreement to cover 747-400 "C" checks, A340 base maintenance and (CF6-80) and (Trent 500) thrust reverser services for its 747-400 and A340 fleet based at London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports. The contract also extended a current five-year base maintenance agreement covering (VAA)’s A340 fleet to 2019.

(VAA) said that the 787-9s it will receive, will burn -27% less fuel than the A340-300s they will replace.

October 2012: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has reinstated its London Heathrow (LHR) - Mumbai (BOM) service on 29 October, four years after exiting the Indian route. (VAA) dropped the sector due to worsening economic conditions in its home market. With the British economy starting to grow again and India continuing to boom, spokeswoman, Fay Burgin said the time was right to re-start services. The decision was influenced by the success of (VAA)’s daily (LHR) - Delhi (DEL) service in recent years: “Demand for our Delhi route has been unprecedented,” Burgin said. Passenger numbers rose +13% on the sector last year.

There has also been considerable (DEL) traffic connecting via (LHR) to New York, something (VAA) expects to see replicated on the (BOM) route.

The new daily service will be operated by two newly-arrived A330s in a three-class layout, 33F, 48PY, 185Y. Burgin said the two A330s would be deployed on the (BOM) and (DEL) routes “for the foreseeable future," competing with twice-daily flights on each British Airways (BAB) and Jet Airways (JPL), as well as also daily flights on Air India (AIN). Notably, the route also used to be operated daily by Kingfisher Airlines (KFH). In addition to traffic between India and the UK, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) targets transfer traffic between India and the USA with the relaunched route.

(VAA) will also begin a sixth daily service to New York on October 27.

(VAA) said that 1 million people fly between Mumbai and the UK each year, with the market increasing by +10% in the last two years alone.

(VAA) Executive Chairman, Sir Richard Branson has told journalists at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport (BOM) that (VAA) would be close to signing a contract to join a worldwide alliance while inaugurating (VAA)'s new route from London Heathrow to Mumbai. Given its competitor British Airways (BAB) is one of the founding members of the Oneworld (ONW) Alliance, it is expected that Virgin Atlantic (VAA) plans to either join the Skyteam (STM) Alliance or the Star (SAL) Alliance. Branson also confirmed that the Virgin Group would be interested in taking a minority stake in an Indian carrier without providing specific information on its current plans.

Sir Richard Branson has indicated that Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), long known for its independent streak, is closing in on a decision to join a global alliance. In an interview with "Bloomberg Television" while in India to announce the re-launching of (VAA)’s London Heathrow - Mumbai service, Branson said, “(VAA) has always enjoyed its independence, but since pretty well every competitor that we have has an alliance, I think we have finally decided that to survive, we need to have an alliance.”

He added that (VAA) “may well give up and become part of an alliance,” with an announcement coming in the “next three to four months,” according to "The Telegraph."

Branson in the past has not been a fan of airline alliances and, in particular, was highly critical of the USA government and the European Commission (EC) for granting antitrust immunity (ATI) to Oneworld (ONW) Alliance partners British Airways (BAB), Iberia (IBE) and American Airlines (AAL) on transatlantic services, repeatedly referring to the tie-up as a “monster monopoly.”

Given Branson’s harsh comments regarding (ONW) and (VAA)’s fierce rivalry with (BAB), it would appear unlikely (VAA) would join (ONW). Singapore Airlines (SIA), which owns 49% of (VAA), is a member of the Star (SAL) Alliance. The SkyTeam (STM) Alliance could also be a possibility; the grouping does not have a UK-based member.

London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) will study new runway options, although it remains bound by a 1979 pact blocking it from building a runway before 2019. (LGW), which said it has the land and financing to build a new runway, is launching a detailed work program to evaluate the implications of a new runway, along with possible economic benefits and related noise, environmental and surface access issues.

Once completed, it will submit the results to the Independent Commission on Aviation Connectivity, which will in turn feed into the UK government’s airport expansion policy.

(LGW) (CEO), Stewart Wingate said, “We must now look to the future when Gatwick will become full and outline its long-term role. I believe a new runway at Gatwick could be affordable, practical and give passengers a greater choice of routes to key markets. We have the space, capability and access to financial resources.”

The airport, which is independent of London Heathrow (LHR) and London Stansted (STN) airports, claims an additional runway is a better option than rival capacity plans. “There are clear practical advantages of a new runway at Gatwick,” Wingate said. “When compared with a third runway at Heathrow, we would have a significantly lower environmental impact, whilst adding significantly more capacity. Stansted is half empty today; we already have much better surface transport links and feel our business case will be much stronger. As for the Estuary airport concepts, there are major questions on affordability, environmental issues and whether they are deliverable,” he said.

In the short term, (LGW) will assess ways it can maximize its existing single runway capacity. (LGW) is the UK’s second largest airport, although it claims to serve 197 destinations, compared to (LHR)’s 163 destinations. It is owned by a group of international investment funds, including Global Infrastructure Partners, which is its largest shareholder.

Reply comment:
* What is it with the Brits??? They oppose any improvement at any commercial airport and the government just rolls over and plays dead. Do they have eminent domain laws which allow public projects to move ahead speedily without the ranting and raving from a few chronic complainers? Airports are noisy places but with the advent of next generation jet airplanes, the noise levels have dropped considerably over the past few years. Heathrow needs more runways as does Gatwick. The Brits need to find another Winston Churchill with some moxie to get the job done. He said "Never before, has so much been owed to so few!" Now we need a future which owes so much to many. Steve.

November 2012: According to the UK's "Sunday Times", Delta Air Lines (DAL) wants to partner with AirFrance (AFA)/(KLM) to buy Virgin Atlantic (VAA) by purchasing the 49% stake in (VAA) held by Singapore Airlines (SIA), (whom has long indicated it has wished to be rid of it). Another factor is that 49% is the limit under foreign ownership rules, and (AFA)/(KLM) could buy Sir Richard Branson's 51%, so that the three SkyTeam (STM) Alliance partners could together assume full control.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has won its bid to take all 14 pairs of London Heathrow (LHR) remedy slots demanded by the European Commission (EC) following the takeover by the International Airlines Group (IAG) (BAB)/(IBE) of British Midland (BMA). The giving up of slots was a condition of the takeover deal.

The offer of the 14 slot pairs to (VAA) means that (VAA) will begin multiple daily flights to Edinburgh and Aberdeen on March 31 2013. (VAA) previously said it would allocate seven of the pairs to those routes. (VAA) had also announced it intends to use two pairs of its own slots to launch an (LHR) - Manchester, UK service.

In a statement, (VAA) said it would work over the next two weeks to finalize its plans and confirm a timetable. It did not detail the sectors it would operate with the remaining slot pairs. According to a news report by the "Guardian," it is considering Nice Côte d'Azur (NCE) as a potential other short-haul destination from (LHR).

(VAA) intends to wet-lease three A319s to operate its short-haul flights.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) Cargo will operate daily, Cape Town - London Heathrow A340-300 service during the winter season.

Avion Express (AVS) will operate three A320-200s on behalf of Virgin Atlantic (VAA) from March 2013 as part of (VAA)'s plan to launch domestic flights from London Heathrow to Aberdeen Dyce (ABZ), Edinburgh (EDI) and Manchester Ringway International (MAN) airports.

December 2012: The balance of power in the London Heathrow (LHR) long-haul market may once again shift, as the Virgin Group and Singapore Airlines (SIA) appear to be moving closer to selling a stake in Virgin Atlantic (VAA), possibly to Delta Air Lines (DAL) and AirFrance (AFA)-(KLM).

(SIA) in a short statement to the Singapore stock exchange says it is “in discussions with interested parties concerning the possible divestment of its 49% shareholding in Virgin Atlantic (VAA).” But it adds, “These discussions may or may not result in a transaction.”

The disclosure came after UK newspaper "The Sunday Times," without citing sources, reported that (DAL) is in talks with (SIA) to buy its 49% stake in (VAA). The report also says (DAL)’s SkyTeam (STM) Alliance partners AirFrance (AFA)-(KLM) is planning to buy part of the Virgin Group’s 51% stake in (VAA).

(DAL), meanwhile, is not commenting on the story, calling it rumor and speculation. If (DAL) proceeds with the acquisition, the move would provide a major boost to the (STM) Alliance’s access at (LHR), and at the same time curtail Star (SAL) Alliance’s reach at the airport, which has been limited by Lufthansa (DLH)’s sale of its BMI (BMA) division to the International Airlines Group (IAG) unit British Airways (BAB). (BAB) currently is the dominant player on transatlantic services from (LHR), a position that is strengthened by its joint venture with Oneworld (ONW) Alliance partner American Airlines (AAL).

In contrast, (VAA)’s strategic position has become weaker as its competitors grow. This prompted (VAA) in 2010 to appoint an adviser to investigate potential growth options, including alliance membership and buying a stake in another airline. Sir Richard Branson, (VAA)’s controlling shareholder through his Virgin Group, has said that he wants to remain involved in (VAA) even if part of (VAA) is sold.

(VAA)’s biggest asset is its transatlantic network from (LHR), the main gateway into the UK and one of the world’s most important business destinations. But (VAA) has been losing money. In the 12 months ending February 29, (VAA) posted a loss of -£80 million/-$128.3 million, compared to a profit of +£18.5 million in the previous year. (VAA)’s (CEO), Steve Ridgway, at the time said the loss was due to “sky-high fuel prices,” global economic uncertainty and a +25% increase in passenger duty fees. Ridgway is due to retire from his position in early 2013.

(VAA) is particularly vulnerable to high fuel prices. Its fleet of 42 airplanes includes four A340-300s, 17 A340-600s and 13 747-400s. These four-engine airplane types burn more fuel and are more expensive to maintain than newer models. (VAA) has taken steps to update its fleet by ordering 16 787-9s and six A380s. First delivery of the 787-9s and A380s is in 2014 and 2015, respectively, says (VAA).

Despite the cost exposure, (VAA) has valuable airport slots and may be of strategic importance to a USA carrier. It will still be difficult for (SIA) to secure a price comparable to what it paid for its stake in early 2000. (SIA) paid £600.25 million for the 49% share, which included a capital injection of £49 million. The deal valued (VAA) at £1.2 billion, but (SIA) has since written down the value of the shareholding.

Later, in response to the above, Virgin Group Chairman, Sir Richard Branson pushed back against "rumors" that the sale of 49% of Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) to Delta Air Lines (DAL) would end the Virgin Atlantic brand.

(SIA) has confirmed media reports that it is in talks over the possible sale of its 49% stake in (VAA), and multiple news outlets, including "Reuters" and "Bloomberg," are reporting that (DAL) is the lead suitor to buy the stake. The parties are not commenting publicly. The Virgin Group would presumably retain its 51% stake.

Branson reacted after International Airlines Group (IAG) (CEO), Willie Walsh told "The Telegraph" that he “can’t see (DAL) wanting to operate the Virgin brand because if they do, what does that say about the Delta brand?” He said (DAL) primarily wants (VAA)’s London Heathrow slots.

Branson said on his blog, “Rumors have been spread in the press that I am planning to give up control of (VAA) and, according to Willie Walsh that our brand will soon disappear. This is wishful thinking and totally misguided. (VAA) was my baby 28 years ago when we set up with just one airplane. Like all children, they never really stop being your babies and (VAA) is still much cherished. We intend to carry on for many years to come and, contrary to Mr Walsh’s hopes, we have no plans to disappear.”

Branson did recently concede (VAA) is likely to join an alliance. (DAL) is a key member of the SkyTeam (STM) Alliance.

Later on December 11th, Delta Air Lines (DAL) said it will buy almost half of Virgin Atlantic (VAA) for $360 million as it tries to catch up to rivals in the lucrative New York-to-London travel market.

(DAL) plans to form a joint venture (JV) with (VAA) so they can sell seats on each other's flights, share the costs and profits, and set the flight schedules in ways that help both airlines. American Airlines (AAL) has a similar deal with British Airways (BAB).

Because (DAL) would be setting fares and schedules in coordination with an airline it used to compete with, it said it will need antitrust (ATI) approval from USA and European regulators in order to form a (JV). (DAL) said the share purchase will happen with or without antitrust (ATI) approval.

(DAL) is aiming to have the joint operation running by the end of 2013. The deal won't add flights between the USA and Britain. But travel will be more seamless. Travelers would be able to buy one plane ticket from, say, Lansing, Michigan on Delta (DAL) and connect in New York to a (VAA) flight to London. Travelers from Europe will also have a smoother transition onto (DAL) flights to locations inside the USA. (DAL) said their frequent flier programs would be linked, too.

Combined, (DAL) and (VAA) have 31 flights a day in each direction between North America and the UK, including nine each way between (LHR) and New York (JFK) and Newark (EWR) in New Jersey.

By itself, (DAL) has only three flights a day straight from (JFK) to (LHR). (AAL) and (BAB) have 14 between them. And that's the problem. New York-to-London and back is one of the world's prime business travel routes. (DAL) has loads of travelers coming into its New York hubs at (JFK) and LaGuardia. But without more flights to bring those travelers on to London, (DAL) is at a serious disadvantage.

Landing rights at (LHR) are limited, so (DAL) can't just add more flights there.

Buckingham Research analyst, Daniel McKenzie wrote that (DAL) needed to fix its shortfall of London flights in order to win more business travelers. He estimated that the deal would bring (DAL) hundreds of millions of dollars in added revenue starting in 2014. Some of that business will probably come at (AAL)'s expense, since it also has a hub at (JFK), McKenzie wrote.

Sir Richard Branson will still own more than half of (VAA), which will continue to fly as a separate airline under its own name. In 2000, Branson sold a stake to Singapore Airlines (SIA) for 600.3 million pounds, or about $960 million at the time. That's the share that (DAL) is buying.

(VAA) has been struggling. It reported a pretax operating loss of -80.2 million British pounds in its most recent fiscal year, even as the number of passengers it carried rose +2%. It indicated in 2010 that it might be interested in some kind of tie-up with another airline. British media reports at that time said that (DAL) was interested.

Branson's involvement gives (VAA) strong name recognition, but it is much smaller than (DAL). (VAA) has 38 airplanes, compared to 725 for (DAL). (DAL) carries some 160 million passengers per year, almost 30 times more than (VAA).

Shares of (DAL) rose 73 cents, or +7.1% to $10.87 in morning trading.

(DAL)'s purchase of (SIA)’s 49% share in (VAA) for USD360 million continues the massive USA airline’s international expansion and opens up a major front in the battle for (LHR)’s valuable traffic flows. For (VAA), it once again means (VAA) has been saved from decline and even oblivion. The previous savior, (SIA), paid almost three times as much, but had no prospect of leveraging the deal in the way (DAL) potentially may.

Almost since the day it acquired the stake for GBP600 million, (SIA) has been trying to sell out of its barren partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. It has been a long and painful (not to mention embarrassing) saga. (SIA) has long since stopped trying to leverage its relationship.

(DAL) meanwhile is in global expansion mode, growing organically at home and investing in Gol (GOT) and Aeromexico (AMX) over the past year, as it sees a window of opportunity in the evolution of world aviation. (DAL), the mega-airline is also expanding through metal neutral agreements on the Atlantic and the Pacific. This is a time when seemingly anything is now possible, where AirFrance (AFA) can combine with one of the despised Gulf airlines, Qatar Airways (QTA) can join the Oneworld (ONW) Alliance, and Emirates (EAD) can team up with arch rival, Qantas (QAN).

(VAA) will lease four A320s from Irish flag-carrier Aer Lingus (ARL) to carry out its new planned UK domestic services. The A320s will be operated In (VAA) livery and have (VAA) crews.

The new domestic routes, from London Heathrow Terminal 1, will operate to Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Manchester will have six daily return flights, with Edinburgh and Aberdeen three apiece.

(VAA) (CEO), Steve Ridgway said the new services would provide nearly 1 million seats annually, an increase on the quantity previously supplied on the routes by British Midland International (bmi) (BMA).

(VAA) is taking over the routes as remedy slots that British Airways (BAB) was forced to cede to maintain competition on UK domestic sectors after its parent company the International Airlines Group (IAG) took over (BMA).

“This is the beginning of an exciting new era in (VAA) history,” Ridgway said. “It’s been a long time coming but the dawn of our short-haul service is now just a few months away.”

January 2013: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has named American Airlines (AAL) Executive (Senior VP Operations Planning & Performance), Craig Kreeger as its (CEO), effective February 1. Kreeger replaces Steve Ridgeway, who will retire after 23 years with (VAA). Kreeger will oversee (VAA)’s transatlantic joint venture with Delta Air Lines (DAL) and its foray into the short-haul market.

(VAA) announced Ridgway’s plans to retire in September. Ridgway became (CEO) of (VAA) in 2001. “[Kreeger] will be taking over at a time when (VAA) enters a new phase (with the Delta (DAL) deal to implement, the commencement of short-haul competition for British Airways on UK domestic routes) as well as the arrival of an ultra-efficient [Boeing] 787 fleet in 2014,” Ridgway said.

(AAL) VP Operations Planning & Performance, Joe Snook will replace Kreeger as Senior VP Operations Planning & Performance.

(VAA) announced that former Amadeus UK Commercial Director, Scott Davies will join (VAA) as General Manager-UK Sales, effective March 4.

(TAECO) was selected by Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) to provide heavy maintenance service ("D" Check) for its fleet of 13 747-400s under a four-year contract.

February 2013: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is assessing its alliance options, with the SkyTeam(STM) Alliance emerging as the likely fit given the UK carrier’s new relationship with Delta Air Lines (DAL).

Late last year, (DAL) announced plans to acquire Singapore Airlines (SIA)’s 49% stake in (VAA). As part of the deal, (DAL) and (VAA) are planning to launch a cost and revenue sharing joint venture (JV) on flights across the Atlantic.

In an interview with the "Financial Times," (VAA) (COO), Julie Southern has given the clearest indication yet that the two airlines could also become alliance partners. “I suspect in due course you may see us joining the SkyTeam (STM) Alliance,” Southern said.

In an official statement, (VAA) said: “Joining the (STM) Alliance is not a condition of the joint venture (JV) with (DAL), although (VAA) is evaluating its options in this regard. (VAA) has always kept alliance membership under review but has been clear that it needs to be in the best interests of the business.”

AirFrance (AFA)-(KLM) Group Chairman & (CEO), Jean-Cyril Spinetta said he believes Delta Air Line (DAL)’s recent 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will help strengthen the SkyTeam (STM) Alliance’s transatlantic joint venture (JV). Spinetta said: “(DAL) acquired 49% of (VAA) by buying the stake held by Singapore Airlines (SIA). That will translate into a strengthening and consolidation of our competitive position there.”

He highlighted the strong performance of the (JV), which also includes Alitalia (ALI). The partnership delivered €9.6 billion/$12.66 billion in revenues during 2012. Transatlantic unit revenues (excluding currency effects) rose +10.4%, off the back of a 5.3% capacity reduction during the year.

The (AFA)-(KLM) (CEO) dismissed suggestions that the (DAL)-(VAA) deal could dilute traffic from its Paris and Amsterdam hubs, as (VAA)’s primary focus is on point-to-point activities. He believes the tie-up will “significantly improve the performance of (VAA)” with improved American feed.

He also sees a potential future for (VAA) in the (STM) Alliance, describing such a move as “logical.”

March 2013: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) announced it will launch a regional carrier, "Little Red," beginning March 31. The new carrier, which will use four A320s leased from Aer Lingus (ARL), will offer 26 daily flights between London Heathrow and Manchester, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen.

(VAA) is taking over the routes as remedy slots that British Airways (BAB) was forced to cede to maintain competition on UK domestic sectors after its parent company, the International Airlines Group took over bmi (BMA).


Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) formally filed an antitrust immunity (ATI) application with the USA Department of Transportation (DOT) for their joint venture (JV).

(DAL) last year announced it would spend $360 million to acquire Singapore Airlines (SIA)’s 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA). As part of the deal, (DAL) and (VAA) will launch a transatlantic (JV) operating on a metal neutral basis in which the airlines will share costs and revenue from all (JV) flights. The (JV) plans to operate 31 peak-day round-trip flights between the UK and North America, 23 of which will operate at London Heathrow (LHR). (DAL) estimates the (JV) will operate about 24% of the passenger seats between (LHR) and the USA.

In the application to the (DOT), (DAL) and (VAA) noted that “nearly 60% of the slots at (LHR) Airport are controlled by the American Airlines (AAL)/British Airways (BAB) joint venture (JV), which, as a result, dominates air travel between the USA and the UK, including the New York - London market, which is the most important business market in the world.” The (DAL)/(VAA) (JV) “will offer significant competition in the market,” the carriers said.

(VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger said, “We are confident that the (DOT) will recognize this consumer benefit.”

(DAL) said that if the (JV) gains antitrust immunity (ATI), it plans to begin new service between Seattle and London Heathrow. The airlines have said they expect both the share purchase and the (JV) to be in place by the end of this year.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is likely to form a tie-up with SkyTeam (STM) Alliance members, AirFrance (AFA)-(KLM) and Alitalia (ALI), as part of a new joint venture (JV) with its new part-owner Delta Air Lines (DAL).

Late last year, (DAL) confirmed plans to acquire 49% of (VAA) from Singapore Airlines (SIA) and cement a (JV) with (VAA) by the close of 2013. The two carriers have applied for antitrust immunity (ATI) and (VAA) is mulling its alliance options, although (DAL)’s (SKT) Alliance is a likely choice.

However, it has now emerged the (ATI) could also include (AFA)-(KLM).
“The five-way (ATI) application is designed to ensure that (ATI) is granted widely enough to allow the efficient operation of both the Delta (DAL)/Virgin Atlantic (VAA) (JV) and the (DAL)/(AFA)/(KLM) (JV). It does not affect the scope of (VAA)’s (JV) with (DAL) — which is the core focus at this stage,” a (VAA) spokeswoman said.

(VAA) has currently only committed to enter a two-way (JV) with (DAL).

(AFA)-(KLM) Chairman & (CEO), Jean-Cyril Spinetta recently welcomed the (DAL)-(VAA) tie-up, saying it would boost the (SKT) Alliance’s transatlantic (JV). He also said it would be “logical” for (VAA) to join the (STM) Alliance.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s UK domestic operation, "Little Red," has begun services between London Heathrow and Edinburgh. The service, which will be followed by sectors from Heathrow to Manchester and Aberdeen, was won by (VAA) after the acquisition of British Midland International (BMA) by the International Airlines Group (IAG) member, British Airways (BAB).

As part of the deal allowing (BAB) to absorb its biggest domestic rival, (BAB) was obliged to divest several pairs of slots at (LHR) to allow a new contender on the domestic sectors.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) said its new domestic operation, which uses A320s leased from Aer Lingus (ARL) but in (VAA) colors, will carry up to one million passengers a year, flying 26 flights a day. New (CEO), Craig Kreeger said the Heathrow - Edinburgh route is “key to Little Red’s strategy to provide strong and effective competition: — it is the busiest UK air route, with Edinburgh being a thriving financial center and the seat of the Scottish government.

“Alongside bringing revenue into Scotland, our Little Red service is all about connectivity to the rest of the world. We have seen impressive numbers of connecting journeys being booked through to places such as Tokyo and New York,” he said, adding the new service has received wide support from other airlines keen to connect passengers between their Heathrow flights and the rest of the UK.

“Thirty-one other airlines already offer their flights with Little Red connections. Many of these airlines used to partner with bmi (BMA) and want to offer their passengers a competitive alternative to British Airways (BAB).” Four airlines (Singapore Airlines (SIA), Air New Zealand (ANZ), South African Airways (SAA), and Cyprus Airways (CYP)) were already code sharing with the new domestic services, and Kreeger expects to add to this number in the near future. SEE ATTACHED - - "VAA-2013-04 - LITTLE RED LAUNCH."

Following the start-up of flights to Manchester and Edinburgh, (VAA) began its thrice daily operation to the UK’s oil capital of Aberdeen (ABZ) in Scotland from London Heathrow (LHR) – the last of its new domestic services being launched for Summer 2013. Using Aer Lingus (ARL) airplanes under a wet-lease agreement, the two cities will be connected by the A320s, but flown in (VAA) colors. Nearly three times as many flights are offered by the competition – 55 weekly services from British Airways (BAB).

May 2013: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) adds seasonal daily, London Heathrow - Chicago service.

(VAA) is scheduled to be the second airline to receive the 787-9 Dreamliner in September 2014 (Air New Zealand (ANZ) receives the first).

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) Cargo has promoted Steve Hughes to Regional VP Sales for its Europe, Middle East & Africa region, effective May 1. He will be based at London’s Heathrow Airport. He previously held the position of Regional Sales Manager, Continental Europe. He has been with (VAA) since 2005.

July 2013: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will cease London Heathrow - Accra flights from September 22, due to fuel prices in Ghana.

One of the most valuable routes in the airline industry is the one that joins New York to London. It is the world's busiest route, one particularly frequented by business travelers, and currently, it is dominated by United Airlines (UAL). All that is set to change, thanks to a pivotal partnership between Delta Airlines (DAL) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA).

Last month, the two airlines unveiled a code share agreement across 108 routes, with Delta (DAL) acquiring a 49% share of (VAA). For (DAL), the deal provides access to a market that, though lucrative, has been difficult for them to crack. "Heathrow is the most important destination for the USA business traveler, and we've not been able to provide the global frequency that our customers need," admits Edward Bastian, (DAL)'s President. "Virgin (VAA) was the best way to get to them."

Unlike Virgin Atlantic (VAA), which has experienced two years of steady financial losses, (DAL) has been in an upward expansion. It is the fastest-growing carrier in New York - - abetted by a massive expansion of two of the city's major hubs, including a $1.4 billion renovation of Terminal 4 at (JFK), and $100 million upgrade of its facilities at LaGuardia Airport.

While (DAL) is gaining momentum in North America, procuring slots at Heathrow has proved arduous for the airline, according to George Ferguson, Senior Airline & Aerospace analyst at Bloomberg Industries.

"The largest number of slots at Heathrow are dedicated to Virgin (VAA) and British Airways (BAB) flights. (DAL) has had a hard time getting in there," he admits. "This deal really gives them a lot of access to Heathrow, which is an important market in New York."

Currently, (DAL) has nine flights operating between Heathrow and the USA. When the partnership takes effect, that number will jump to 23.

Compared to (DAL), (VAA) is a much more niche airline. It serves a smaller, predominately British clientele, providing them with a more upmarket experience. Despite Virgin (VAA)'s strong brand, its image doesn't resonate as well outside the United Kingdom. Ideally, the deal with Delta (DAL) will introduce (VAA) to a wider audience. "I think the spirit of our company will be very attractive to the USA-based customers that Delta (DAL) currently serves," says Craig Kreeger, (CEO) of Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA). "I think that by becoming more successful and being able to generate more fans in the United State, it's going to spur even more innovation (at Virgin)."

As the two companies join houses, so to speak, experts are pondering which brand will be more prominent. "From a (VAA) perspective, I expect not much will change, at least not for a while" says Ferguson. "Virgin (VAA) has a pretty strong brand across the Atlantic (the better brand right now) and (DAL)'s going to want to leave that in place."

Asked if there's a chance (VAA) might lose its identity in the process, Kreeger says he's not worried. "The Virgin (VAA) brand and Virgin (VAA) style is one of the things that attracted Delta (DAL) to us in the first place," he says. "I think they're looking forward to being able to offer their customers more choice."

For the deluge of passengers that fly Delta (DAL) and Virgin (VAA) across the pond, the partnership could ideally result in cheaper fares. "I see them being able to give corporate customers much more options, and I see them really being able to kick off some extensive routes with above-average yields," says Ferguson, who adds that in the airline industry, fuller planes usually results in cheaper tickets.

"London and New York are sort of dominated by the financial services business, which has taken it on the chin lately," notes Ferguson. "As a result, you have a consumer that is more price conscious and you need to find a way to get them a cheaper ticket while still making money. That's why you need to get planes full. For Virgin (VAA), this is the start of that process."

(VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger is cautious over whether the airline will proceed with its planned purchase of Airbus A380s, but is more upbeat about the Boeing 787-9 and the introduction of regional "Little Red."


August 2013: Virgin Atlantic Cargo will begin allowing customers to track their air freight shipments in real time, after approving the Sentry FlightSafe tracking device for its airplanes.

Sentry FlightSafe, developed by OnAsset Intelligence, has multiple sensors that track information regarding temperature, pressure and vibration about cargo at all points throughout the shipping process. The information is then remitted to customers through cellular-based communications.

John Lloyd, Director of Cargo at (VAA), said (VAA) approved the device in an effort to give customers access to "real-time information on the status of their shipment throughout its entire journey with us."

September 2013: Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) plan to operate a “harmonized schedule between New York (JFK) and London Heathrow” starting March 30, 2014, after receiving final antitrust clearance from the USA government to launch a transatlantic joint venture (JV).

The USA Department of Transportation (DOT), which had final say on granting antitrust immunity for the (JV), gave its formal approval on September 23; the (DOT) had granted tentative approval earlier this month after the USA (DoJ) and the European Commission (EC) did not object to the (JV).

(DAL) last year acquired a 49% stake in (VAA) and the two carriers agreed to form the transatlantic (JV), which they believe will make them more competitive against the antitrust immunized transatlantic (JV) operated by American Airlines (AAL), British Airways (BAB), and Iberia (IBE).

From March 30, 2014, (DAL) and (VAA) will operate a combined seven daily flights between (JFK) and Heathrow, as well as twice-daily service between Newark and Heathrow. All told, the (JV) will operate 32 peak daily nonstop flights on a “metal neutral” basis between the UK and North America, including flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Atlanta. Of the 32 flights, 24 will be to/from Heathrow. (DAL) and (VAA) will share costs and revenue from all (JV) flights.

(DAL) President, Ed Bastian said, “The freedom to cooperate fully with Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will initiate a new era of greater competition in the New York to London market, ­where it is much needed.”

(VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger said, “Our partnership with Delta means we will be able to offer convenient aligned schedules and a much broader network, giving the best possible travel choices and onboard experience to transatlantic passengers.”

October 2013: Virgin Atlantic Cargo has promoted Ryan Ellis to Regional Sales Manager Continental Europe. Ryan joined Virgin Atlantic (VAA) in 2010 as a Capacity Controller and was promoted to the cargo sales team as an account manager in the UK. Virgin Atlantic Cargo has named Neil Vernon as Regional VP Sales for Asia Pacific. Vernon is formerly of bmi (BMA)’s cargo team.

November 2013: Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA) have announced plans to align their schedules from next summer and co-locate some services at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. From April 2, (DAL) will move its Boston, New York (JFK) and new Seattle services to join Virgin (VAA)’s services from Terminal 3. In turn, (VAA) is retiming some of its flights to coordinate with its new partner. “We already co-locate together at New York’s (JFK) airport, and moving some of (DAL)’s key business flights to join Virgin Atlantic (VAA) at London Heathrow’s Terminal 3 will enhance convenience and reduce connection times,” (VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger said.

In addition to the new London Heathrow - Seattle route, due to launch March 30, (DAL) will add a second daily, London Heathrow - Detroit service from June 2. In a joint statement, the partners said they were “combining their slots at London Heathrow to offer maximum customer convenience.” “With our Seattle service, (Dal) will add its sixth nonstop destination between London and the United States. Combined, the Delta (DAL) - Virgin (VAA) partnership now offers our customers 33 daily nonstop flights across the Atlantic,” (DAL) President, Ed Bastian said.

Rushlift Limited will supply and maintain ground support equipment to Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) under a contract worth up to four million pounds over seven years covering airplane maintenance in hangars and on stands at London Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

December 2013: Delta Air Lines (DAL), in cooperation with Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), will add a second daily, London (LHR) - Detroit service beginning June 1, 2014.

London’s Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW) airports have been identified as possible sites for new runways to boost airport capacity around London. In its December 17 interim report, the Airports Commission put on ice, options for an new-build airport in the Thames Estuary, because of high cost—beginning at £112 billion/($183 billion (and because they presented “many challenges and uncertainties”).

Despite describing (LHR) as full in 2010 and (LGW) due to be at full capacity by 2020, the Commission pointed out a new runway would need to come into operation by 2030. At (LHR), commission officials have identified two options (the construction of a new 3,500 meter runway to the northwest of the airport, an idea mooted by Heathrow’s owners in July) and an independent option, produced by the (LHR) Hub group, extending the airport’s northern runway, lengthening it to at least 6,000 m and enabling it to be operated as two separate runways for departures and arrivals.

At (LGW), the commission said its analysis will study options for a second runway at a location south of the current runway, which would allow for independent operation: one as an arrival runway and the other for departures.

(LHR) owners said during the summer that either of the third runway options it presented could deliver new capacity by 2025 - 2029 and for around £17 billion, less than quarter of the expected price tag of a new airport.

The commission also forecasts the requirement for a second additional runway in the South East of England by 2050.

While many of the Estuary airport options (promoted by London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson) weren’t shortlisted, commission officials have said they will study the most viable, a new build airport on the Isle of Grain. But the report pointed out that any of these airport ideas would require “substantial” surface access infrastructure, with “potential cost, deliverability and environmental challenges of its own.”

“The overall balance of economic impacts would be uncertain (particularly as an Estuary airport would require the closure of (LHR) for commercial reasons and London City for airspace reasons),” the report added.

Plans for a second runway at Stansted were also not shortlisted; however, the commission said the airport is a “plausible option” for any second additional runway during the 2040s. The commission will now firm up studies and development work ready for the final report to be delivered in 2015 after the next general election.

The commission is also pushing for a series of short-term solutions to capacity including the optimization of UK airspace, making use of enhanced en-route traffic management systems, and performance-based navigation. It also called for the undertaking of trials at (LHR) to smooth the early morning arrival schedules to minimize delays and provide more predictable respite from noise and pollution for local communities. The report also urged improvements in surface access to airports, including improvements to rail links, but while officials say such measures are “worthwhile on their own terms, none of them can provide a long-term solution to the UK’s airport capacity problem.”

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will operate a seasonal, fifth weekly flight from Heathrow to Vancouver during the summer. (VAA) said the extra service would deliver more than >2,000 extra seats during the summer period, May - August 2014.

(VAA) said that it had experienced “strong demand” on the route during the summer months and that passenger numbers had grown by +15% between 2012 and 2013. “Our Vancouver service was launched in 2012 and has been proving popular since its inaugural with demand remaining high throughout the summer months. Since its launch, we’ve flown 17,214 passengers to Vancouver,” said Edmond Rose, Director Airline Planning at (VAA). “To meet this demand, we have taken the decision to introduce a fifth weekly service next summer, resulting in a strong increase in the number of seats available for holiday makers looking for a getaway to British Columbia,” he added.

January 2014: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will start charging Economy (Y) Class passengers to pre-select their seats. (VAA) said the charges, from 50 pounds for a round-trip, long-haul flight, would be introduced from May 1, 2014 although a note on (VAA)'s website suggests fees will be introduced from April 1 on flights from Gatwick to Las Vegas and charges won't apply to other USA routes until June 1. Also, passengers flying between the UK and Tokyo will remain exempt from the charge, reported.

A spokeswoman said all passengers will still be able to reserve a seat free of charge when online check-in opens 24 hours before departure, but if they want to select a specific seat any earlier, they will have to pay. She said the charge was being introduced as (VAA) has found it impossible to guarantee every seat chosen in advance due to last-minute changes in the type of airplane operating a route.

"If fewer passengers choose seats in advance, we would be able to re-seat most passengers in very similar seats to their original choices. So from May 1, 2014, we will be introducing a charge to choose your economy (Y) seat in advance," the spokeswoman said.

Seat selection can be made on most routes 336 days in advance to passengers prepared to pay the fee. Those who wait until check-in opens will be able to choose from the seats that are left, which might mean parents travelling with young children risk being separated on a long-haul flight.

The charge will be 25 pounds per person per flight on (VAA)'s long-haul services and 8 pounds per person, per flight on Little Red domestic flights.

A note on (VAA)'s website says frequent flyers won't be able to pay for seat selection using Miles or Miles Plus money, but (VAA) hopes to be able to offer this facility shortly.

February 2014: British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic (VAA) said this month it was axing Sydney to Hong Kong services due to increasing costs, leaving British Airways (BAB) as the last major European carrier flying to Australia via Asia.

(VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger said ballooning costs coupled with a challenging economic environment had affected (VAA)’s profitability in a move that will be a boost for Qantas (QAN) and Cathay Pacific (CAT), which also ply the route.

“Despite the best efforts of our employees, external factors such as increasing costs and a weakening Australian dollar have affected our profitability,” he said. “These are still difficult times for the airline industry and as part of our strategy to operate more efficiently, we need to deploy our airplanes to routes with the right level of demand to be financially viable.”

The last flight from Sydney will be on May 5, although (VAA) will continue to operate its Hong Kong - London segment.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) already operates code share flights on the London - Sydney route with Singapore Airlines (SIA) routing via Singapore.

Branson’s Virgin Group owns 51% of Virgin Atlantic (VAA). The mogul also holds a stake in Virgin Australia (VOZ), an airline he co-founded in 2000.

London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) is planning a significant expansion of its noise insulation scheme, increasing the noise boundary by +15 km at each end of the runway.

The expansion will mean that over >40% more homes will be eligible to apply for a grant of up to £3,000/$4,913 toward double glazing windows and doors, as well as loft insulation. This will potentially bring an additional +1,000 homes across Surrey, Sussex and Kent into the noise protection scheme, increasing the total number covered to 2,000.

(LGW) (CEO), Stewart Wingate said: “We understand that the public’s tolerance to noise is much lower than it was, which is why we are now extending our noise insulation scheme to cover the 30 km flight path east and west of the airport.”

In addition to the extension of the noise contour boundary, the noise baseline being used by the airport will be lowered from sound level 66 Leq to 60 Leq, with the boundary line drawn flexibly to ensure entire roads and communities are included. Leq is a measurement used to express the average sound level over a 16-hour, 92-day summertime average. (LGW) said it was “not aware of any other airport in the world offering a scheme of this magnitude.”

The scheme takes into account not only noise levels, but also how many times eligible households are being overflown. (LGW) argues the impact of both the level and frequency of airplane noise on local communities needs to be a critical issue for the Airports Commission’s assessment of the London Heathrow (LHR) and (LGW) airport runway proposals.

(LGW) said that, if the same scheme were applied to (LHR), it would have to cover around 70,000 homes because airplanes have to overfly densely populated areas of London.

It points out that, even with a second runway, the number of people impacted by noise at (LGW) would be around 11,800, equivalent to less than <5% of the estimated 239,000 people that fall within the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)’s annual noise contours at (LHR) today.

Wingate said that (LHR) Airport, which launched its community consultation about a third runway on Monday, “should break [its] silence about noise and think seriously about following our lead.”

Independent noise expert, Ian Flindell described the new (LGW) scheme as an “innovative departure from existing practice,” which “appears to be among the most generous of similar schemes I have seen across other European airports and possibly world wide.”

The extended noise insulation program will roll out from April 1.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s Upper Class concierge staff are set to shake things up at London Heathrow (LHR) this month by sporting a very different kind of accessory that promises to transform the passenger experience. (VAA)’s staff will, for the first time, be wearing "wearable" technology:– "Google Glass" and "Sony Smartwatch." - - SEE ATTACHED - - "VAA-2014-02-WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY." This is part of a new six-week pilot scheme between (VAA) and technology supplier (SITA).

The companies promise that the staff’s use of the technology will allow them to “deliver the industry’s most high tech and personalised customer service yet.” Virgin Atlantic (VAA), in collaboration with air transport Information Technology (IT) specialist, (SITA), is the first in the industry to test how the latest wearable technology, including Google Glass, can best be used to enhance customers’ travel experiences and improve efficiency.

Under the pilot scheme, staff will be equipped with either Google Glass or a Sony SmartWatch 2, which is integrated to both a purpose-built dispatch app built by (SITA) and the (VAA) passenger service system. The dispatch app manages all task allocation and concierge availability and pushes individual passenger information directly to the assigned concierge’s smart glasses or watch, just as the passenger arrives at the Upper Class Wing.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) staff will be able to start kerbside check-in for Upper Class passengers, while updating passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination and translate any foreign language information.

(SITA) said that in the future, the technology could also tell (VAA) staff their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences. The company said this would result in a better and more personalized service.

Dave Bulman, Director Information Technology (IT), (VAA) said: “Our wearable technology pilot scheme with (SITA) makes us the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve the customer experience. We are upholding (VAA)’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience.”

March 2014: London Gatwick Airport (LGW) is launching a six-week consultation among local communities, starting April 4, seeking input on its proposals to build a second runway. In its interim report published in December, the UK government-appointed Airports Commission concluded that one additional runway would be needed in the southeast of England by 2030, and short-listed three possible options. These were for an additional runway at London Heathrow (LHR), extending one of the existing runways at Heathrow to enable it to operate as two separate runways, and a second runway for (LGW).

In its submissions to the Airports Commission, (LGW) proposed three possible runway options, one of which (a second runway south of the existing runway to be used for both landings and take-offs) was its preferred option and the commission’s main focus.

(LGW) will now consult its local communities for their opinions on the three proposed options. Responses will be possible online via the airport website, in person at one of 16 public exhibitions, or by post. (LHR) is running a similar consultation with its local communities about the proposal for a third runway to be built northwest of the airport selected by the commission in its interim report.

(LGW) said the reason for consulting on all three options was “to provide more detail on each, the reasons for (LGW)’s provisional order of preference and to obtain views and feedback to help refine and improve the options.” All three options are for a runway south of the existing runway, but Option 1 would be 585 metre south of the existing runway, while Options 2 and 3 would be 1,045 metres south of the existing runway. Option 2 would see one runway used for landings and the other for take-offs, while Option 3 would handle mixed mode operations.

The consultation will cover a range of topics including environmental, economic and social considerations, and the findings will be published by Ipsos MORI in an independent report by this summer. The findings will also be submitted to the Airports Commission to be taken into account before it reports to the government in summer 2015 with recommendations on how to meet the UK’s additional airport capacity needs in the longer term.

April 2014: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) recorded a -£15 million/-$25 million net loss in 2013, narrowed from -£82 million for 2012. The result was achieved on revenues of £2.58 billion, up +3.6% on 2012’s £2.49 billion.

The 2012 figures are pro-forma statistics, designed to give a comparison with 2013 after Virgin Atlantic Group parent changed its financial reporting period to coincide with the calendar year.

Group (CEO), Craig Kreeger said that 2013 saw “good progress toward our target of a return to profitability by the end of this year. Our strategy has been to focus on networks, alliances and managing our cost base in a way that has not impacted the customer. For example, use of a new fuel management system delivered savings of -£8 million in a single year.”

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) said that in 2013 all 10 of its Airbus A330s were in operation, improving fuel consumption figures, which are expected to further improve later this year, when (VAA) takes delivery of the first of 16 Boeing 787-9s, replacing less fuel-efficient A340-300s.

Kreeger also noted the improvement in passenger service delivered by the joint venture and code share with Delta Air Lines (DAL), which owns 49% of the Virgin Atlantic Group. “The partnership will deliver significant customer and commercial benefits and allow both airlines to operate more effectively in the transatlantic market,” he said.

In 2013, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) launched Little Red, a domestic feeder operation between London Heathrow and several UK regional airports. It is leasing A320s from Aer Lingus (ARL) for this service.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo achieved the highest average cargo load factor in its 30-year history, with 76% of capacity used, up +6% over 2012. Tonnage was up +5% at 224,500 tonnes, although revenues dipped -3%, reflecting a -7% drop in capacity over the year.

The Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson added some star appeal in more ways than one at an aviation summit in Washington DC this month, where he shared insights on his quest to personally fly into space and to make that viable for the traveling public.

Branson went on stage at the summit, organized by the USA Chamber of Commerce Foundation, with Delta Air Lines (DAL) (CEO), Richard Anderson. The two are allies in their new antitrust transatlantic joint venture (JV) between (DAL) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA).

As Branson himself said, there is some irony in the fact that after his long, hard campaign against the American Airlines (AAL)/British Airways (BAB) alliance, during which he had “No Way BA/AA” painted on his (VAA) airplanes, he is now partnered with (DAL). The joint venture (JV) was formed after (DAL) bought Singapore Airlines (SIA)’s 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic (VAA).

Branson talked a bit about his Virgin Galactic (VGC) project to design and build the world’s first commercial spaceliner. Early this year, SpaceShip Two (SS2), (VSS) Enterprise, completed its third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger-carrying reusable space vehicle from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. There’s a great video here that explains the project.#t=159

2014 is a big year for Virgin Galactic (VGC), when the spaceship will go into space and begin the transition to Virgin Galactic (VGC) commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Branson said that he was very excited about the prospect of personally flying into space. He talked of the possibility of one day having the option to fly from Sydney and Los Angeles in just 45 - 50 minutes.

(ALPA) President, Lee Moak was a speaker at the same summit and also at the SkyHarbor Aviation Symposium in Phoenix the following day and he mentioned Branson’s comment. But he pointed out that given the very long immigration and border control queues that many people endure at USA gateway airports, he couldn’t help but fear that after their 45 minute flight from Sydney, travelers would still have to wait hours at the airport.

More information about the Virgin Galactic (VGC) project is provided in:

May 2014: Delta Air Lines (DAL) will add its first nonstop Los Angeles (LAX) - London Heathrow (LHR) service, while Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will add a new link with (DAL)’s Atlanta (ATL) home hub, following a swap between the joint venture (JV) partners. The two airlines are switching a single daily frequency on the two key routes following (DAL)’s decision to take an equity stake in (VAA). This gave rise to a (JV) partnership that formally launched on January 1.

Following the change, which takes effect October 27, (DAL) will operate one of two daily (LHR) - (LAX) flights currently operated by Virgin Atlantic (VAA). “This new (DAL) service will mark (DAL)’s first nonstop flight between Los Angeles and London Heathrow and is (DAL)’s seventh nonstop destination between London and the USA.”

Virgin Atlantic (VAA), meanwhile, will take on one of (DAL)’s three daily flights between (LHR) and (ATL). This is (VAA)’s first (LHR) - (ATL) service and will be used to connect into (DAL)’s onward network.
The two airlines will code share on each other’s services. “This brings the total number of connections available through the partnership to more than >200.”

(DAL) has co-located its New York, Boston, and Seattle routes with (VAA) at (LHR)’s Terminal 3, although its Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis services still operate from Terminal 4. (VAA) will serve Atlanta from Terminal 3, where it is based at (LHR). “In less than a year, we will have co-located key business routes, delivered schedule changes to benefit our customers and provided enhanced experiences to our frequent fliers, who gain from reciprocal lounge access and the ability to earn and burn across both carriers. This is just the beginning of demonstrating how a true joint venture (JV) between airlines should be operated to benefit customers,” (VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger said. “Expanding access to London’s (LHR) Airport has long been at the top of (DAL)’s list of priorities, while (VAA) has long wanted greater access to North America,” (DAL) President, Ed Bastian added.

Combined, the two airlines operate 32 daily nonstop transatlantic flights to the UK. The two airlines now code share across 108 routes, covering 66 destinations.

The UK government-appointed Airports Commission has received detailed proposals relating to the three options short-listed in its December 2013 interim report for a new runway to serve the South East of England. The three options include a third runway for London Heathrow Airport (LHR) (submitted by (LHR) Heathrow), a second runway for Gatwick Airport (LGW) (submitted by (LGW)), and an extension to one of the existing runways at (LHR), effectively creating a third runway (submitted by the (LHR) Hub consortium).

The report concluded that London and the South East needs one new runway by 2030, and two by 2050. The government has yet to make a formal response to the interim report, but the “Let Britain Fly” campaign said the submission of detailed proposals “marked another important step toward expanding our airports.”

Let Britain Fly Director, Gavin Hayes said: “With (LHR) already full for a decade, (LGW) full by 2020, and all of London’s main airports forecast to be full by the mid-2020s, we believe it is fundamental that senior politicians from each of the main parties publicly acknowledge the need to build new runways. Failure to act, will be bad for business, bad for passengers, bad for our economy and bad for Britain.”

The (LHR) third runway proposal now includes recommendations for a congestion charge to fund public transport improvements, and higher compensation for people most affected by a new runway. This includes a +25% markup on market value for properties subject to compulsory purchase, as well as other incentives, and improved noise insulation support.

(LGW) said its second runway proposal “is a straightforward construction project, building a new runway on land already set aside for runway expansion. Unlike (LHR), it doesn’t involve putting the busiest stretch of the busiest motorway in Europe into a tunnel.”

(LGW) insists its proposal would be cheaper and impact fewer homes than the (LHR) third runway, and described (LHR)’s congestion charge proposal as a “bombshell” of “unprecedented measures to tackle one of the huge environmental challenges of their expansion plans.”

(LHR) Hub promotes its own proposal as “the simplest of the concepts being considered,” with “greater and more secure economic benefits, as well as being more innovative and lower risk than the alternatives.” The (LHR) Hub solution provides “significant improvements in public transport,” creates jobs, and generates “substantial local, regional and national economic benefits. Community impacts are relatively modest and can be mitigated, and airplane noise impacts compare well with the other (LHR) scheme.”

The Airports Commission will now evaluate the revised proposals, which will eventually be subject to public consultation.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) has named Virgin Group investment partner, Shai Weiss as (CFO), effective July 7. Shai has been with the Virgin Group since 2007 and is a Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) board member.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) has confirmed it is considering the larger Boeing 787-10 as part of its fleet renewal program. (VAA) has 16 of the intermediate-sized 787-9s on order, with the first due to arrive in September, some three months after launch customer Air New Zealand (ANZ) places its 787-9s into service.

(VAA) also has options on five further 787-9s, which form part of an ongoing fleet modernization program that replaces (VAA)’s existing Airbus A340s (A340-300s and A340-600s) and Boeing 747-400s with more fuel-efficient A330s and the 787s.

Virgin Group Founder & (CEO), Sir Richard Branson told "Bloomberg" (VAA) was studying the larger 787-10 and, if (VAA) decides to proceed with a purchase, it would likely be a new order, rather than a conversion of some of the 787-9 order.

As the 787-9s enter service, they will initially replace Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s three remaining A340-300s.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) said: “At the moment, we are exploring the 787-10 airplane, but have no further details on how they would affect the fleet.”

Boeing (TBC) plans to introduce the larger variant from 2018.

The 787-10 will carry around +40 more passengers than the 787-9, which has a capacity of 280, but will have a shorter ranger (7,000 nm) compared to the 787-9’s range of 8,300 nm.

(VAA) currently operates four A320-200s wet-leased from Aer Lingus ((IATA) Code: EI, based at Dublin International) (ARL), ten A330-300s, three A340-300s, thirteen A340-600s and twelve 747-400s on flights spanning the United Kingdom, North America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia.

June 2014: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has firmed up one of its five Boeing 787-9 options and will decide this year whether to cancel or further defer its Airbus A380.

Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA) are eyeing technology-sharing opportunities as part of their joint venture (JV), while (VAA)’s SkyTeam (STM) Alliance plans continue to take a back seat.

July 2014: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will offer weekly summer 2015 Belfast - Orlando Boeing 747-400 service.

AirFrance Industries (AFI) (KLM) (E&M) has reached an agreement with Virgin Atlantic (VAA) to provide component support services for its new fleet of Boeing 787s that begin service later this year. The contract covers component and (APU) maintenance, along with pool access and the supply of a Main Base Kit holding in London.

Spafax has been selected by Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) to handle all Technical Services for its in-flight entertainment system, Vera. Spafax will provide integration test and release, encoding, plus timeline and metadata management. Spafax recently appointed Andy Beer as VP Technical Services.

August 2014: On October 28, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will become the first European carrier to operate the Boeing 787-9, an airplane that (CEO), Craig Kreeger says will make up 40% of its commercial fleet by 2018. Beyond the airplane's highly publicized fuel efficiency, (VAA) will also look to use the e-Enabling infrastructure in order to deploy an effective maintenance strategy for one of the most technologically advanced airliners on the market today.

Nearly 146,000 parameters of flight data can be collected from the 787. While in-flight, the e-Enabling infrastructure sends airplane health data automatically via the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS). This in-flight data gives the live condition of the 787's avionics systems to (VAA)'s Integrated Operational Control Center (IOCC) throughout all phases of flight.
"The (IOCC) can use this data to plan the maintenance actions required for the airplane before it lands, making sure the manpower tools and materials are available as soon as the 787 arrives at the gate. As soon as the 787 lands, it will connect directly to (VAA)’s back office systems via a cellular data system and provide details of the operation of over 1,000 parameters."

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has used this same process with its legacy fleets, but with the increased data available on the 787, their hope is to be able to monitor "the trend of component health with the goal of removing components before failure" which would increase the operational reliability for the airplane.

Using a more effective airplane maintenance strategy can also help with (VAA)'s plan to return to profitability. The 787-9 is 21% more efficient per flight than equivalent sized airplanes in (VAA)'s fleet. That, combined with the more efficient maintenance schedule, should help (VAA) to reverse its recent consecutive annual losses in revenue, including 2013's reported a loss of -$86 million.

(VAA)'s 787-9s (like all of the other airplanes in its current fleet) will also enter service compliant with the "European Link 2000+" mandate, which requires airplanes flying in European airspace to be equipped for Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) using (VHF) Digital Link (VDL) Mode 2.

"The 787 will be delivered with a higher standard Future Air Navigation System (FANS), enabling high speed data link." However, one area where (VAA) will not take advantage of the 787-9 is with the use of Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs). While (VAA) is currently considering starting the process of obtaining approval for (EFB) operations, (VAA) 787-9 flight crews (FC) will still be using paper-based airplane operating manuals and navigational charts for commercial passenger flights. The 787 comes with a standard (EFB) system in the cockpit.

When it comes to In-flight Entertainment (IFE) though, (VAA) will continue the innovative passenger cabin environment that it has always been well known for. The 787 Dreamliner fleet will be quipped with the (JAM) (IFE) system, which features a 12.1 inch touchscreen monitor and handset. (JAM) also features a technology hub, allowing passengers to connect their smart phones and tablets to the system to either watch or listen to their own content on the touchscreen monitor.

September 2014: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) will reconfigure its route network by cutting services to Asian and African destinations in favor of a greater concentration on North Atlantic services. The changes are the latest harmonization of services between Virgin Atlantic (VAA) and Delta Air Lines (DAL), which holds a 49% shareholding in (VAA).

Under plans announced recently, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will offer an additional daily frequency on services between London Heathrow (LHR) and New York (JFK) (5x-daily), Los Angeles (2x-daily), Atlanta (2x-daily in summer season), Miami (2x-daily in winter season). (VAA) will also increase (LHR) - San Francisco services to 5x-weekly.

(VAA) previously announced it will start a new daily, (LHR) - Detroit service before summer in 2015. It will also take over transatlantic joint venture (JV) partner (DAL)’s current daily service between Atlanta and Manchester.

To create the required capacity for these increases, (VAA) is ending services from (LHR) to Tokyo Narita and Mumbai (January 31, 2015), its summer seasonal service to Vancouver (October 11) and winter seasonal service to Cape Town (April 27, 2015). The last flight between Tokyo and London will be on February 1, 2015.

(VAA) said it would be eager to restore services to those destinations “if (LHR) gains its long overdue expansion. The intended changes will enable (VAA) to better utilize its fleet by flying routes which deliver maximum profit or strategic importance,” (VAA) said. It has been loss making in recent years, but hopes to return to profitability by the end of 2014.

“Transatlantic flying has always been at the heart of our network and our most financially successful region,” (CEO) Craig Kreeger said. “Today’s announcement allows us to play to our strengths and focus our network on routes between the UK and USA, as well as other critical global destinations that are most important to our customers.”

As part of improving its customer service, it plans to invest £300 million/$495 million between now and 2018 in a series of enhancements including a new Clubhouse lounge at Los Angeles, fleet-wide Wi-Fi roll-out and refurbishments to its Airbus A340s until they are replaced by new types.

Meanwhile, (DAL) announced it will launch daily, Manchester - New York (JFK) service from June 2, 2015, as it increases its network between the UK and North America. (DAL) will also begin flying its first nonstop service between (LHR) and Newark from March 29, 2015.

(DAL)’s new Newark operation is part of a network update by (VAA), where it will operate one of (VAA)’s two Newark services, while Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will start its first daily nonstop Manchester to Atlanta service.

“The UK is a key market for us and building our connections to the USA is a top priority,” said Perry Cantarutti, Delta Senior VP Europe, Middle East & Africa.

Further doubt has been cast over the future of Virgin Atlantic (VAA)'s UK domestic airline, "Little Red," which has been struggling to fill flights since its launch by Sir Richard Branson 18 months ago.

(VAA) recently announced plans to scrap flights to Tokyo, Mumbai, Vancouver, and Cape Town and increase flights across the Atlantic following its tie-up with Delta Air Lines (DAL). It is believed a close scrutiny of (VAA)'s current routes will also lead to it pulling the plug on Little Red, which is operated by Aer Lingus (ARL) on (VAA)'s behalf under a "wet lease" arrangement.

Official figures published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) earlier this year confirmed suspicions that Little Red has been struggling to attract passengers since its launch in March 2013. Load factors indicate the number of seats on flights that were actually occupied by passengers showed Little Red's load factor was just 37.6% LF in 2013, indicating that its planes were on average flying more than >60% empty, although (VAA) insisted the domestic services had gained further momentum since the start of this year.

A recent report claimed that (VAA) is set to shut the UK domestic airline. Responding to the report in "The Sunday Times," a spokesman for (VAA), said: "We look at Little Red through the same lens as the rest of the business (it must deliver on performance, potential or strategic contribution). Little Red is still in its growth phase, so it is too early to comment on these criteria."

Little Red, which offers flights from London to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester, was launched after (VAA)'s rival, British Airways (BAB), bought the loss-making UK carrier, bmi (BMA), for 172.5 million pounds in 2012. (BMA) had been a strong source of feeder traffic for (VAA)'s long-haul flights out of Heathrow (LHR) airport.

Earlier this year it emerged that the European Commission (EC) had taken an interest in Delta (DAL)'s influence over (VAA), amid concerns that some foreign interests are effectively controlling European airlines despite owning minority stakes. (VAA) said its operations "fully comply" with regulatory obligations.

Air traffic controllers at London’s Gatwick Airport handled 906 movements on August 29, breaking their own world record for handling the highest number of air traffic movements in a single day from a single runway. This equates to a takeoff or landing every 63 seconds.

UK air navigation services provider (NATS) said it is the only air traffic services operator in the world to have achieved more than >900 airplane movements in a single day from one runway (a feat it achieved four times in August). It set the previous record of 895 in 2008 and has consistently set the benchmark for the number of movements from a single runway.

Over the past two years, (NATS) said it has worked to increase Gatwick’s declared capacity to deliver at least 55 scheduled movements per hour for seven hours a day, although even more are not uncommon at peak times.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo has taken delivery of more than >800 lightweight air cargo containers as part of its ongoing sustainability program. With the goal of reducing its airplane CO2 emissions by -30% within the next 5 years, (VAA)'s new container is 16 kg lighter than a standard unit thanks to its construction from composite materials.


News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will close its Little Red domestic operations next year, because the short-haul offshoot has failed to deliver the anticipated level of connecting passenger traffic to (VAA)’s long-haul network.

The airline said daily services between London Heathrow and Manchester would continue until the end of March 2015, while flights from Heathrow to Edinburgh and Aberdeen would continue until late September 2015.

Little Red was launched in March 2013 to help fill a competition gap following British Airways (BA) parent, International Airlines Group’s (IAG) takeover of bmi (BMA). (VAA) had hoped these routes would generate connecting traffic to its international network and stressed that “high levels of connections onto Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s long-haul network have always been important to the success of Little Red.”

However, (VAA) has acknowledged now that demand has been predominantly for point-to-point travel, rather than connecting traffic and that Little Red has “not been able to make a positive contribution to (VAA)’s network.”

(VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger said: “Little Red was always a huge challenge on behalf of the consumer, as the totally inadequate number of slots made available by the European Commission (EC) did not deliver close to (BAB)’s network position, even when supplemented by our own slots to fly between Heathrow and Manchester. The time lag between the takeover of bmi (BMA) and our entering the market, also meant Little Red initially faced an uphill battle to win recognition and convert customers to its services.”

Kreeger stressed that although “this challenged environment meant Little Red ultimately did not deliver the results we had hoped, this certainly will not dampen our enthusiasm to try new things in the future. We have always fought for what we believe is best for our customers and we will continue to do so.” He said Little Red cabin crew ((FC) - (CA)) would be offered roles within (VAA)’s long-haul operation.

Passengers will be able to book with Little Red into the New Year, with increased earning incentives per sector and a reduction in the number of Flying Club miles needed to redeem a flight being offered for frequent flyers.

Virgin (VAA) said the Little Red closure would not affect its international operations from Manchester or Glasgow.

News Item A-2: The UK’s largest bank, the (HSBC), has joined a project between Virgin Atlantic (VAA) and New Zealand-originating research company, LanzaTech to develop a new, low-carbon fuel.

LanzaTech is working on a process that captures and ferments waste gases from industrial steel production, then chemically converts them into jet fuel. LanzaTech and (VAA) have been working for three years on the fuel’s development, but (HSBC)’s support (along with Boeing (TBC) and other technical partners) will allow a proving flight to take place within the next year.

The (HSBC)’s financial backing will allow production of the new fuel to move from sample size to demonstration scale and produce sufficient fuel to conduct the proving flight.

This is the next step in a process to achieve American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) certification of the alcohol-to-jet production pathway. (ASTM) certification is a significant step toward commercialization of LanzaTech’s sustainable fuel solution, which is expected to have half the carbon footprint of standard jet fuel.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) Executive Chairman, Sir Richard Branson said: “With the support of (HSBC), we are investing in the long-term, sustainable future of air travel and we are excited about the carbon savings that this technology could help us to achieve, especially when combined with our super fuel-efficient new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.” He was speaking at the launch event of (VAA)’s new Boeing 787-9, which uses more than 20% less fuel than the airplane it replaces.

LanzaTech estimates its process can apply to 65% of the world’s steel mills, allowing the fuel to be scaled up for worldwide use. It will be a commercially viable option for airlines as it is a “drop-in” fuel, requiring no modifications to engine or airplane technology, and will be produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel.

(HSBC) Global Head of Sustainability, Simon Martin added: “We want to support really innovative projects that accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy.”

News Item A-3: Boeing (TBC) has delivered Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA)'s first 787-9 Dreamliner. (VAA) is the first European carrier to take delivery of the 787-9 and plans to operate the airplane initially on its London Heathrow to Boston route.

(VAA)'s first 787-9 touched down at London's Gatwick Airport following a more than >4,000 nautical mile (nm) nonstop flight from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, USA. The airplane is the first of 16 787-9s (VAA) has ordered from Boeing (TBC). (VAA) intends to firm up its four remaining options for Boeing 787-9s, as it brings the first of the fleet into service.

The 787 is slated to cut (VAA)’s fuel costs by -21% per trip and will be a “major driver” in its financial turnaround. It will be deployed on existing routes, starting with Boston on October 28, followed by Washington DC in December, New York/Newark in January, and London Heathrow - New York (JFK) from February.

(VAA) plans to use the new airplanes to tweak its upper class (F) and premium economy (PY) products, introducing a new on board premium economy (PY) lounge area called “the Wander Wall.” It will configure its 787s with 31F upper class, 35PY premium economy and 198Y economy seats. All passengers will have access to Wi-Fi connectivity.

According to Boeing (TBC), nearly 60 global customers have ordered more than >1,000 Dreamliners to date, approximately 40% of which are 787-9s.

November 2014: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is looking to lease out two sets of London Heathrow (LHR) slots freed up by the demise of its UK short-haul arm "Little Red," until it has the airplanes it needs to operate them itself.

News Item A-2: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is to replace seven Boeing 747s; the A380 as a replacement airplane is unlikely.

(VAA) is expected to place an order for at least seven airplanes within the next five to nine months to replace its London Gatwick-based Boeing 747s.

December 2014: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is expecting to turn a profit this year, after completing its two-year recovery plan, and is now working to deliver on its strategy for the period to 2018.

News Item A-2: Virgin Atlantic Airlines (VAA) begins weekly, London (LGW) - Tobago Airbus A330-300 service from March 2015.

News Item A-3: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) and (MINT) Software Systems have signed a service agreement to implement (MINT)’s web-based training and (ATQP) management software. (VAA) will use the new system for effective license and qualification tracking and pilot (FC) training management, with a focus on electronic grade sheets and records for (ATQP) data analysis.

News Item A-4: London Gatwick Airport will invest £1 billion/$1.6 billion to upgrade the facility’s North Terminal. The investment plan marks five years of independent ownership of the UK’s second largest airport, which was sold as part of the breakup of the (BAA) monopoly in 2009, enabling it to compete head-on with London Heathrow Airport (LHR) for the first time.

The revamp of the North Terminal will include a new £36 million check-in area that will open in two phases between late 2015 and early 2016; a new £30 million security area opening in 2016, enabling Gatwick to process 5,000 passengers an hour; a new £21 million departure lounge with 30,000 sq ft of new retail space; and a £10 million refurbishment of the arrival area, due to open in summer 2015. Other improvements will include a £10 million border zone upgrade to include 15 new e-gates; £250 million to maintain and replace facilities including lifts, escalators and technology infrastructure; £80 million to reconfigure Pier 5; and £185 million to construct a new Pier 1.

Gatwick (CEO) Stewart Wingate said: “Gatwick is changing for the better and the fresh £1 billion investment outlined today is a clear signal that we intend to become London’s airport of choice. Gatwick’s success shows what can be achieved when competition is allowed to thrive, helping standards rise and fares fall.”

In the five years since Gatwick Airport was purchased by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder, it has added more than >6 million passengers a year, handling 38.6 million today, and expected to reach 41 million in three years’ time. Gatwick has recorded 20 successive months of growth, and the last six months have been the busiest in the airport’s history, with the site’s single runway capacity barrier now looming in just a few years. It is currently the busiest single runway airport in the world, handling a record 906 air traffic movements in August 2014.

Since 2009, the new owners have already invested just over >£1 billion, which included a North Terminal extension in 2011, a revamp of the South Terminal departure lounge in 2009, resurfacing the main runway, refreshing the forecourts of both terminals, and improving security facilities.

January 2015: 787-900 Dreamliner (37968, G-VOOH), AerCap (DEA) leased.

February 2015: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) plans to phase out its Airbus A340-300 fleet by the end of March.

The final flight is scheduled as a Shanghai Pudong to London Heathrow service on March 29, although (VAA) spokeswoman Jo Foster said the precise date and route remains subject to operational exigencies.

(VAA) at one time had a fleet of 10 A340-300s, but this has now shrunk to two, in a three-class, 240-seat layout.

It still has 13 newer A340-600s in its fleet. Some of the A340s are due to be phased out as new Boeing 787-9s arrive, but a decision on which type will replace the remainder is still forthcoming (possibly later this year). (VAA) has 17 Boeing 787-9s on order.

The fuel consumption of the four-engined A340 fleet has been a significant reason behind (VAA)’s lackluster financial performance in recent years. This is improving as older airplanes, such as the A340s, gradually leave service.

March 2015: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) reported a +£14.4 million/+$21.7 million profit before tax and exceptional items for 2014, a +£65.4 million improvement from the -£51 million pre-tax loss for 2013. “The results confirm that (VAA) has delivered on the target it set in February 2013 to return to profit within two years. It is now looking to the future and positioning the business for future growth and sustained profitability,” (VAA) said.

During the year, (VAA) carried 6.2 million passengers at a 77.4% LF load factor, generating £2.9 billion in revenue. Unit revenues rose +0.5%, or +3.5% at constant currency. Operating cost figures were not disclosed, but (VAA) said they “remained flat.”

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger said the improvement was due to “strategic changes in the business, along with operational and cost efficiencies.” He added that (VAA)’s joint venture (JV) with part-owner Delta Air Lines (DAL) also delivered “significant benefit,” with 4.5 million passengers flying on (JV) services in its first year of operation. This total is expected to grow further in 2015.

“The partnership’s total number of code share routes recently increased to 484 and its peak daily transatlantic services will rise to 39 from summer 2015,” (VAA) said.

During 2014, (VAA) rationalized its network and took the decision to close domestic arm, "Little Red." However, it is pushing forward with its long-haul growth, with new routes between Manchester and Atlanta, London Heathrow (LHR) and Detroit, and London Gatwick and Tobago, as well as a series of seasonal flights between Belfast and Orlando, and Glasgow and Las Vegas.

It is also stepping up frequencies between (LHR) and major USA destinations, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York. “We are confident that we have the right fleet, network and partners in place to be more profitable than ever before by 2018,” Kreeger said. (VAA) received its first 787-9 in October and another seven are slated to follow in 2015 as part of its fleet renewal. (VAA) also plans to invest £300 million in its customer experience by 2018.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo carried 224,139 tonnes of freight at a 74% LF. This contributed £221 million to the revenue total, but was down -1.8% year-on-year (up +3.1% at constant currency) and yields fell for the third year in a row. “Overall, we held our position well last year, and achieved a slight increase in our market share, thanks to continuing high load factors (which enabled us to make another strong contribution to (VAA)’s financial results,”) (VAA) Director of Cargo, John Lloyd said.

News Item A-2: Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) have expanded their transatlantic partnership, with the introduction of six new daily services.

As the two airlines begin their summer schedule, they offer up to 39 return transatlantic flights a day between the UK and 15 destinations across North America. The joint schedule includes 10 daily flights between London Heathrow and New York, now with eight daily departures to New York (JFK) and two departures to Newark.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is launching a second daily service between London Heathrow (LHR) and Los Angeles (LAX). Combined with the (DAL) service launched in October 2014, the partnership will offer 3x-daily flights from London to (LAX), and expects to carry close to 400,000 annual passengers on the route.

Also launching at this time is a seasonal second daily Virgin Atlantic (VAA) service between (LHR) and Atlanta, and a second service between (LHR) and San Francisco, that will operate 5x-weekly over the summer.

Further joint venture (JV) services be introduced later in the summer include a new daily (DAL) service between (LHR) and Philadelphia starting April 27; a new daily (DAL) service between Manchester and New York-(JFK) from May 22; and a new daily, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) service between (LHR) and Detroit starting June 1.

News Item A-3: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is launching a trial with Sony Mobile Communications to test how new wearable technology can help improve (VAA)’s Maintenance & Engineering processes.

Engineers working on (VAA) airplanes at the airport and in the hangar will be testing Sony’s SmartEyeglass Developer Edition (SED-E1), tablet, mobile phone and SmartWatch 3 in an eight-week trial at London Heathrow (LHR) Airport. They will test how the technology can be used for real-time communication between the Engineering team on the airplanes and in the Engineering Support areas.

SmartWear plus a smart phone or tablet will remove paper from some Engineering processes and reduce journey times between an airplane and Technical Control. Engineers will receive notifications on SmartWatch 3 devices about changes to job allocations or detail in tasks.

Managers will get instant feedback that the Engineer has read the notification and that the task is in hand. Engineers will use SmartEyeglasses to take pictures or video of tasks they are working on. This will be linked to an app running on a smartphone that allows Engineers to submit a form requesting further technical assistance. SmartEyeglasses will also be used for real-time video streaming so office Engineers can see a problem from the Engineers’ point of view.

News Item A-4: Two of London’s airports have published details on how they can expand to handle the increasing passenger throughputs in the southeast of the UK.

London Gatwick Chairman, Roy McNulty has written to the UK Airports Commission, currently in the final stages of reaching recommendations on the provision of new runways for the London area, while London Stansted has unveiled plans to make maximum use of its potential 45 million-passenger annual capacity.

Gatwick has made a series of guarantees beyond its expansion submission to the Airports Commission.

These include a privately funded second runway would be operational by 2025; Gatwick bearing “all the main risks” of an expansion program including construction and operating costs; and paying £1,000/$1,475 annually toward the municipal taxes of any residents either currently affected by noise above a 57dB(A) threshold, or who would become so affected by a second runway. This figure would be linked to inflation.

“Following a meeting earlier this month, I am now able to make firm guarantees on behalf of the Gatwick Board to the Airports Commission and to the government, McNulty said. “Both Heathrow and Gatwick have support. But after years of delay, most people agree on one thing — something needs to happen.”

Stansted, which has an annual passenger throughput of around 20 million, expects this to rise to 30 to 35 million over the next decade and believes it can put in place measures to increase that to 45 million through operating more efficiently.

To help achieve the higher figures, its new Sustainable Development Plan calls for an enhanced rail link over the current route from London and elsewhere, that terminates at the airport. This year will see the conclusion of an £80 million plan to improve the main terminal and it says minor taxiway improvements would help the single runway operate to its maximum capacity.

It also anticipates redevelopment of the north side of the airport on the far side of the runway from the main terminal. This was the site of the original airport terminal; it will continue to be used for general aviation purposes (but the area is ripe for redevelopment) both by the airport and for the area’s wider economy, according to the plan.

News Item A-5: Irish lessor, Avolon (AZV) delivered its first of four Boeing 787-9s to Virgin Atlantic (VAA), which has a further nine in its fleet.

April 2015: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) adds a second daily on London Heathrow - San Francisco on October 24. The service will be flown with new Boeing 787-9s and is part of a joint venture (JV) with Delta Air Lines (DAL).

News Item A-2: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has expressed concerns that the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus (ARL) by the International Airlines Group (IAG), parent company of Iberia (IBE), Vueling (VUZ) and British Airways (BAB), will diminish competition.

News Item A-3: London’s Gatwick Airport said it will establish a £20 million/$30 million fund to support new air services from around the UK if given the go-ahead to build a second runway.

787-9 (37970, G-VYUM), Avolon (AZV) leased.

June 2015: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) began its weekly (Thursdays) operation from Belfast International (BFS) to Orlando (MCO) on June 25. The seasonal service only runs for four weeks, with the last 455-seat, 747-400 flight being flown on July 16. Thomas Cook Airlines (JMA)/(GUE) operates on the same city pair, twice-weekly with its A330-200s.

News Item A-2: "Virgin Atlantic (VAA) expects 747 replacement order by year end" by (ATW) Alan Dron, June 12, 2015.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is targeting the end of this year to decide on a replacement for its London Gatwick-based fleet of Boeing 747-400s.

Speaking at the (IATA) (AGM) at Miami earlier this week, (VAA) (CEO), Craig Kreeger said he would be very surprised if no announcement had been made by the end of the year. Last November, he said a decision would be made within nine months, which would place the deadline at the end of August.

“What has changed quite a bit [since then] is the price of fuel,” a (VAA) spokeswoman said. “The 747 was a good performer at $100 a barrel. It’s a very good performer at $65 a barrel. So, the decision on replacing the Gatwick fleet is a little bit less urgent. But it’s still reasonably pressing.”

The UK long-haul specialist is looking at the Boeing 777, 787-10 or the Airbus A350 as a replacement for the Gatwick fleet of seven 747-400s, which are operated in a high-density configuration to leisure routes such as Las Vegas and Orlando.

The 747-400s are relatively elderly, but had a £50 million/$75 million refit in 2012 to install new cabins and (IFE) systems to keep them fresh until their leases expire around 2019.

(VAA) operates a second sub-fleet of 747s out of London Heathrow (LHR). These are likely to be replaced by the incoming fleet of 17 787-9s, of which five have arrived and which have so far been replacing (VAA)’s fleet of fuel-thirsty Airbus A340s. So far, all 10 A340-300s have been retired and the remaining A340-600s will follow.

The 787s are expected to make an increasing contribution to (VAA)'s bottom line. (VAA) turned in a pre-tax profit this March after several years of losses.

July 2015: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) began Belfast - Orlando summer services and will return June 23, 2016 weekly with Boeing 747-400s.

News Item A-2: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is to cut -500 jobs as it works to improve its financial position. (VAA) recently made its first profit for some years and said the latest move is designed to make it more agile and responsive to market developments.

It currently has around 9,000 employees globally. It is not yet known whether most of the redundancies will come from (VAA)’s head office near London Gatwick airport or will be spread more evenly over its network.

(VAA) said that, having returned to the black in 2014, it “is now working to grow to record levels of sustained profitability by 2018.”
The cuts will be made in non-customer facing roles, notably among managers and support staff.

The aim is to “structure the business in a simpler, more efficient way with fewer management layers, bringing the entire business closer to the customer.” The reductions will be achieved through a combination of natural attrition, redeployment and redundancies and take place over the next few months, with the aim of completing the program by the end of the year.

The reductions are aimed at making (VAA) more competitive, allowing it to invest in the overall (VAA) customer experience. “To truly position (VAA) for long-term and sustained success, we need to be a more efficient and agile organization that has the ability to invest even more in the areas that make (VAA)’s customer experience unique,” (CEO), Craig Kreeger said.

“As a people-oriented business, these are extremely tough decisions to take, but we know they are necessary to secure our future. We are committed to supporting our people as we deliver against these plans.”

August 2015: News Item A-1: "Top 10 Premium Economy Class 2015" by AIRWAYS publication placed Virgin Atlantic (VAA) in 4th place - - see attached "VAA-2015-08 - Top 10 Premium Economy Class 2015."

September 2015: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) added its second USA route from its Scottish operation at Glasgow (GLA), with Las Vegas (LAS) joining its existing 3x-weekly, Orlando flights. The weekly (Thursdays) seasonal route which began on September 10, only operates until October 1, utilizing one of (VAA)’s 455-seat 747-400s. The 7,881 km sector will face direct competition from Thomas Cook Airlines (JMA)/(GUE), which operates the city pair on Mondays with one of its A330s. Other USA services offered from Glasgow this summer include American Airlines (AAL)’s daily, Philadelphia route, United Airlines (UAL)’s daily, New York Newark operation, Thomson Airways (ATZ)/(TFY)’s weekly rotation to Orlando Sanford and Thomas Cook Airlines (JMA)/(GUE)’s 2x-weekly run to Orlando.

News Item A-2: London’s Gatwick Airport has introduced a new booking service that enables connecting flights between low-cost and full-service airlines to be booked in a single transaction.

The new service, "GatwickConnects," also means the airport will “look after customers if flights don’t operate as planned,” Gatwick said. “This is the first time an airport has taken the lead to book and safeguard connections.”

Announcing the new service, Gatwick Airport (CEO), Stewart Wingate said: “We are uniquely placed to offer a service like GatwickConnects due to the breadth of our route network and our diverse short- and long-haul airline mix.”

Gatwick’s route network covers 11 UK regional and 190 international destinations, with around 1 million travelers a year connecting from low-cost carriers (LCC)s to other low-cost or full-service airlines. Until now, the transactions have had to be made separately, meaning there is no protection, if a flight is rescheduled or delayed.

Gatwick already offers a GatwickConnects airside check-in service for connecting customers of participating airlines, where travelers can drop their bags, and is adding a range of services and hospitality benefits.

“This new service will provide genuine savings, and we will offer travelers a range of hassle-free check-in, baggage handling and hospitality benefits while they are with us,” Wingate said.

Passengers traveling with easyJet (EZY), Norwegian (NWG) and (WOW) air are able to use GatwickConnects when booking through Skyscanner and Dohop.

News Item A-3: "Virgin Atlantic’s "Little Red" Operates its Final Flight" by (ATW) Victoria Moores, September 28, 2015.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) UK domestic operation "Little Red" has closed its doors two-and-a-half years after performing its first flight.
Little Red launched in March 2013, using Airbus A320s on wet lease from Aer Lingus (ARL). The airline was set up to perform flights from London Heathrow (LHR), Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, feeding (VAA)'s long-haul network.

However, (VAA) decided to axe the service in October 2014, due to weak demand. The final Edinburgh and Aberdeen Little Red flights were on Saturday, September 26.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) secured nine of Little Red’s 12 (LHR) slot pairs as part of a European Commission (EC) remedy package, when British Airways (BAB) acquired bmi. They [the slots] will now be returned to (BAB) and will remain available for airlines wishing to start operations or add frequency on the remedy routes.

November 2015: "Virgin Atlantic (VAA)Sets Up Caribbean Subsidiary"
by (ATW) Alan Dron, November 20, 2015.

UK long-haul specialist, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has set up a new subsidiary to operate services to the Caribbean.

The new subsidiary, Virgin Atlantic International (VAI), has been granted an air operator’s certificate (AOC) by the UK Civil Aviation Authority and is expected to begin operations by the end of December, using two of (VAA)’s Airbus A330-300s.

(VAI) will be used “to operate certain Caribbean services on Virgin Atlantic’s behalf,” (VAA) said. The new company will use the parent company’s pilots (FC) and cabin crew (CA) and there will be no discernible difference in the service compared to that of (VAA).

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has a substantial roster of Caribbean and West Indies destinations, including Antigua, Barbados, Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and St Lucia.

December 2015: News Item A-1: "Virgin Atlantic (VAA) Raises Cash Against Heathrow Airport Slots" by (ATW) Alan Dron, December 18, 2015.

(UK)-based long-haul specialist Virgin Atlantic has raised £220 million/$328 million in funding by mortgaging some of its take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow (LHR).

Slots at the heavily runway-constrained airport change hands for considerable sums, but this is the first time in Europe that they have been used in this way to raise funds. The money will be used to bankroll (VAA)’s long-term investment program, including new aircraft purchases.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is the third-largest operator at (LHR).

The fundraising came in the form of a senior secured note transaction. This ensures (VAA) has the right capital base to fund its long-term investment program, including purchase of new aircraft. (VAA) received a loan at advantageous interest rates set against the security of its (LHR) slots.

“This is an innovative financing arrangement,” (VAA) (CFO), Shai Weiss said. “It represents not only a significant milestone for (VAA) as our maiden capital markets transaction, but is also the first time an airline has successfully accessed the value of its (LHR) slot portfolio in this way.”

The note issuance was made possible through the recent creation of a wholly-owned subsidiary, Virgin Atlantic International Limited (VAIL), which will operate two dedicated Airbus A330-300s from London Gatwick to Caribbean destinations, including Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Tobago.

The reason for the creation of (VAIL) some weeks ago was shrouded in mystery. However, it was basically set up to offer security to lenders in the unlikely event of (VAA) ceasing to operate.

Should anything happen to (VAA), the slots that currently belong to it would transfer to (VAIL) and investors would be able to sell them from there. Under (LHR)’s rules, investors are not allowed to own slots themselves. (VAIL) acts as a type of holding place, should the parent company fail.

News Item A-2: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) named Joe Thompson as Senior VP Sales a Distribution. He moves into the role from his current position as Senior VP Network & Alliances.

January 2016: FLYdocs has been awarded a new five-year contract by Virgin Atlantic (VAA) to continue to providing aircraft-data and record-management software and deliver technical services to manage all lease returns for 29 aircraft through 2021.

February 2016: News Item A-1: "Virgin Atlantic Flight Returns to (LHR) Heathrow Following Laser Incident" by (ATW) Linda Blachly, February 15, 2016.

INCDT: A Virgin Atlantic (VAA) flight, en route from London Heathrow (LHR) to New York (JFK) on February 14, was forced to return to (LHR) after a “laser beam incident,” according to (VAA).

(VAA) said on its website that flight VS025 “returned to (LHR) as a precautionary measure due to a laser beam incident. Following this incident, the first officer reported feeling unwell. The decision was taken by both pilots (FC) to return to (LHR) rather than continue the transatlantic crossing.”

A (VAA) spokeswoman told media outlets the aircraft landed safely at (LHR) with 252 passengers and 15 crew ((FC) - (CA)). The flight was rescheduled for February 15.

Following the incident, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) called for more to be done about the growing use of lasers against aircraft.

(BALPA) General Secretary, Jim McAuslan said, “This is not an isolated incident. Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength. It is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Shining a laser at an aircraft puts that aircraft, its crew and all the passengers on board at completely unnecessary risk.

“Modern lasers have the power to blind, and certainly to act as a huge distraction and to dazzle the pilots (FC) during critical phases of flight. We are sure the police will do everything in their power to find the culprits of this attack and prosecute them. We repeat our call to the government to classify lasers as offensive weapons, which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them.

"This incident shows why this is becoming more and more urgent. Pilots (FC) across the world know how dangerous laser attacks are and therefore will join with me in commending the actions of the crew of VS25 who put their passengers’ safety first and took the decision to return to (LHR).”

News Item A-2: Britain should make a decision on where to build a new runway this summer, its transport minister said, dismissing concerns it could be further delayed by a referendum on (EU) membership.

Prime Minister, David Cameron could reach a deal over Britain's ties with the (EU) at a summit later this month, paving the way for a public vote on membership of the bloc as soon as June.

Transport Minister, Patrick McLoughlin said he did not think a June referendum would derail the current timetable for deciding on expanding either Heathrow (LHR), Britain's busiest airport, or Gatwick, its second-busiest.

The decision has been repeatedly delayed.

"If the referendum is June 23, the date that has been talked about, then I think we still could be on target to make it (the decision) before the end of July," McLoughlin told a panel of lawmakers, adding that he did not know when the vote would be. "I very much hope that by the summer of this year we will have a location decision," he said.

(LHR)'s campaign to build a new runway received a blow in December when the government delayed the politically charged decision to summer 2016, saying it needed to do more work on the environmental impact of expansion.

Few disagree that London needs a new runway to remain economically competitive, but its location has been disputed for over >25 years and no new runway has been built in south east England since World War Two.

(LHR), to the west of London, is operating at full capacity. It was recommended over Gatwick last year as the site for expansion by an independent commission.

In his first speech since the government announced it would postpone a final decision on airport expansion, (LHR) (CEO), John Holland-Kaye said that he was confident that the government would back (LHR).

"After the (EU) referendum, the biggest issue for the Prime Minister is delivering the sustainable growth that will tackle the deficit and create that prosperity," he said.

"Only saying 'yes' to (LHR) expansion will help him deliver that vision."

He said that should the government make a decision to back (LHR) by this summer, a new runway could be built by 2025.

March 2016: News Item A-1: The Virgin Atlantic Group posted +£22.5 million/+$33.4 million in pre-tax profit for 2015, up +81.5% from its +£12.4 million pre-tax profit in 2014. The result does not include exceptional items and fair value movements such as a -£198 million loss from fuel hedging accrued by the Group during the year.

“While Brent Crude prices have fallen by -34% (from $56 on January 1 [2015] to $37 on December 31), we did not benefit fully from the decline in price because of our hedging policy,” Virgin Atlantic Group, (CFO) Shai Weiss said. “Our hedging position will continue to unwind and give us significant savings in 2016.”

The Group’s total revenue for 2015 was £2.78 billion, down -1.6% year-over-year (YOY). Virgin Atlantic’s airline (VAA) and cargo operations revenue for the year was £2.35 billion, down -3.2% (YOY). Airline passenger revenue declined -2.9% (YOY), down -£72.8 million from 2014. Cargo revenue fell -13% (YOY), due to “aggressive competitor activity and the low fuel cost environment, which put pressure on price and meant our yields were down -8% (YOY),” Weiss said.

Virgin Holidays (the Group’s holiday tour operations business) was Virgin America (VUS)’s only segment to show a (YOY) increase in revenue (£575.8 million, up +6.6% (YOY)). “Virgin Holidays performed strongly and made a substantial contribution with a profit before tax and exceptional items of £10.9 million, almost half of the overall profit figure,” the company said.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) carried 5.9 million passengers (down -4.2% (YOY)) at a 76.8% LF load factor (down -2.5 points (YOY)) in 2015. The company did not report its consolidated operating costs for the year, but indicated that expenses fell by -£196 million (YOY), primarily from a full-year fuel cost reduction of -£191 million.

“2015 was a year of significant network change for Virgin Atlantic (VAA). (VAA) took full advantage of its transatlantic joint venture (JV) with Delta (DAL) and focus[ed] on its long-haul operation,” Weiss said. “(VAA) stopped flying to Tokyo, Mumbai, Cape Town, and Vancouver, and also closed our short-haul service "Little Red" and have replaced these services with transatlantic flying.”

Transatlantic capacity increased by +14.8% as (VAA) took delivery of seven Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in 2015, replacing (VAA)’s older Airbus A340s, and put them into service on existing routes to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, and Delhi.

News Item A-2: "Virgin Atlantic Boosts UK Regional Links with Flybe (BEE) Code Share" by (ATW) Alan Dron, March 30, 2016.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has signed a code share agreement with UK-based regional Flybe (BEE) for a network of routes connecting its London Gatwick, Manchester, and Glasgow operations with 18 regional airports in the UK and Western Europe.

The move comes six months after (VAA) halted its "Little Red" project, which used Airbus A320s leased from Aer Lingus (ARL) to provide feeder traffic from Manchester, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen to London.

That experiment was stopped, partly because of low load factors and partly because it was discovered that many passengers were using "Little Red" purely as a point-to-point service, rather than connecting with Virgin Atlantic (VAA) long-haul services.

The new code share was announced simultaneously with (VAA) revealing that it will be starting new routes from Manchester, the largest airport in the north of England, to Boston and San Francisco. They will be seasonal routes, beginning at the start of the 2017 summer timetable.

The new arrangement with (VAA) “reinforces our commitment to providing a ‘one stop to the world’ service enabling Flybe (BEE) passengers to make seamless onward connections with their own local regional airport,” (BEE) Chief Revenue Officer, Vincent Hodder said.

Welcoming the new long-haul routes from Manchester, the airport’s Managing Director, Ken O’Toole said the San Francisco service, in particular, was significant. Not only did it give the 22 million potential passengers living within two hours’ drive of Manchester Airport a new route that was likely to prove popular with leisure travelers, it would be a direct link to northern California, home to many technology and bio-medical startups.

News Item A-3: Air Navigation Solutions (ANS) has assumed responsibility for air traffic control services at Gatwick Airport, taking over from UK (ANSP) (NATS).

(ANS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of German air navigation services provider (ANSP) Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS).

(NATS) lost its long-standing affiliation with Gatwick for providing (ATC) services at the airport in July 2014, following a competitive tender process which saw (ANS) awarded a contract to provide (ATC) and air traffic engineering services at the airport for a period of 10 years.

At the time, (NATS) said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, pointing out that it had helped turn Gatwick into “the busiest and most efficient single runway airport in the world,” handling up to 55 movements per hour. Last summer, the airport handled a record 934 movements in a single day.

Commenting on the completed transition to (ANS), (NATS) said: “We are very proud of our track record at Gatwick,” but stressed it had worked closely with (ANS) over the past 14 months “to ensure a safe and professional transition.” A total of 24 (NATS) employees have been seconded to (ANS) support the operation for the next two years.

(NATS) will continue to provide approach control to Gatwick from its Swanwick Centre.

The (DFS) subsidiary is a limited company registered in England and Wales with its own board and management team. (DFS) is understood to be interested in buying a stake in (NATS), should the UK government pursue options for selling its share and fully privatizing the (ANSP).

News Item A-4: Air traffic control services at Gatwick Airport were successfully transferred to Air Navigation Solutions (ANS) Ltd at midnight on February 29. The transfer of operations from the current provider (NATS) is the culmination of a 14-month transition effort, the largest of its kind ever completed. The company, wholly owned by the German air navigation service provider (DFS), will provide air traffic control and air traffic engineering services over a 10-year period at what is the world’s busiest single runway airport with a maximum of 55 aircraft movements per hour. London Gatwick Airport is also Europe's leading airport for point-to-point flights serving more than >200 destinations in 90 countries and in 2015 the rolling total of passengers exceeded >40 million.

Managing Director, Werner Spier commented: “The incredible effort from everyone involved in the transition, resulted in a smooth and seamless handover of services. We are now looking forward to delivering high-quality services to Gatwick Airport and its customers in the coming years, and providing the wider market with flexible, transparent and customer-centric air traffic control services.”

News Item A-5: "Branson’s Virgin (VAA) to Back Supersonic Jet Startup"

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin empire is now involved with a Silicon Valley-backed startup that wants to develop a small supersonic airliner.

April 2016: 747-41R (32746, G-VROC) last revenue flight. Ferried to Marana, Arizona for storage. Sold to Boeing and re-registered N583BC for (BCC) Cove Corporation.

May 2016: 787-9 (38047, G-VMAP "West End Girl") delivered from Boeing Charleston.

June 2016: "London’s Gatwick Airport Opens New Pier 1"
by (ATW) Alan Dron, June 20, 2016.

The opening of the new pier is part of Gatwick’s attempts to wrest a new runway for South East England from London Heathrow (LHR).

London’s Gatwick Airport has opened its new Pier 1 to passenger traffic. The pier, with five gates, adjoins the airport’s South, or original, terminal and replaces a previous pier that had been in operation on the site since 1958.

Construction of the new £186 million/$273 million pier includes a new baggage system for the entire South Terminal capable of handling 4,250 items an hour as well as the airport’s first “early bag store,” which can accept baggage up to 18 hours before departure, allowing passengers to check in their bags before heading to a nearby hotel for a night’s rest before their flight.

Passengers at all five gates on the new pier will be able to use either air bridges or walk-in/walk-out entrances at apron level, allowing the possibility of faster boarding and disembarking.

As part of the project, four new taxiways at the airport provide nine extra holding points for aircraft. This is also aimed at reducing delays by improving the efficiency of aircraft movements to and off the stands.

The opening of the new pier is part of Gatwick’s attempts to wrest a new runway for South East England from London Heathrow (LHR), the favored option chosen by a commission of experts almost a year ago.

The commission’s task was to find the best site for a new runway to serve London and the South East. However, its decision was non-binding on the UK government, which promptly kicked the decision further down the road by calling for further environmental investigations into the suitability of (LHR).

A final decision is now expected by the end of this year and Gatwick continues to push its claim to being the most appropriate site.

July 2016: Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s 12 A350-1000s will be powered by Trent XWB-97 engines (the XWB is the exclusive engine on the A350).

August 2016: News Item A-1: Delta Air Lines (DAL) will consolidate its London Heathrow Airport operations in Terminal 3 as of September 14, (DAL) announced on August 22.

The move will allow (DAL) and its UK-based joint-venture (JV) equity partner Virgin Atlantic (VAA) to operate from the same terminal.

(DAL) plans to move its Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia flights out of Heathrow (LHR)’s Terminal 4 and transfer them to Terminal 3, joining (DAL)’s flights to New York (JFK), Boston, and Seattle.

“Having our (LHR) service under one roof [with Virgin Atlantic (VAA)] is crucial to delivering a synched-up, more convenient service,” (DAL) Senior VP Europe, Middle East & Africa, Nat Pieper said.

“We are looking forward to our [JV] partner (DAL) joining us in Terminal 3,” Virgin Atlantic (VAA) Executive VP Commercial, Erik Varwijk said. “Once the switch goes ahead, customers [will have a] more seamless experience flying from or through London.”

News Item A-2: UK long-haul operator Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is to offer live TV on its Boeing 787s after signing a partnership with Panasonic Avionics and (IMG). “The service is being rolled out to the 787 [family] now, and all 13 airplanes will be fully equipped by the end of the year,” (VAA) said.

Passengers will be able access three live TV channels ((BBC) World News, (CNN) International, and Sport 24) through either their own devices or their seat-back screens.

(VAA) Executive VP Customer, Jill Brady said the move was prompted by customer demand for current affairs and sporting events coverage.

Earlier this year, (VAA) (CEO) Craig Kreeger told the International Aviation Club of Washington DC, that innovation was key to turning round (VAA)’s results. Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is aiming to achieve sustained profitability by 2018.

In 1991, (VAA) was the first airline to offer seatback screens in all classes. By summer 2017, all of its aircraft will be equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity.

(VAA) is partially owned by Delta Air Lines (DAL). It has a fleet of 39 Airbus A330-300s, A340-600s, Boeing 787s and 747s, which it uses to serve 33 destinations in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the USA.

September 2016: The first batch of low-carbon jet fuel derived from waste industrial gases from steel mills has been produced for use by UK long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic (VAA), with flight trials scheduled to start in 2017.

(VAA) has been working with fuel company LanzaTech since 2011 to develop an alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) fuel, branded as Lanzanol. An initial 1,500 US gallons of the low-carbon jet fuel has been produced in China by LanzaTech and has passed its initial performance tests “with flying colors,” (VAA) said.

The fuel is created by capturing carbon from the carbon monoxide emitted by steel mills. This is then fermented to create ethanol and each gallon of ethanol is used to produce 0.5 gallon of aviation fuel.
“The process could be used to capture and recycle around a third of the carbon that steel facilities would otherwise release into the atmosphere,” Virgin Atlantic (VAA) said. “Initial analyses suggest the new fuel will result in carbon savings of 65% compared to conventional jet fuel.”

(VAA) and LanzaTech will now work with Boeing (TBC) and the engine manufacturers, with the aim of performing the first Lanzanol proving flight in 2017. “Following a successful proving flight the data collected will enable the partnership to seek approval to use the fuel on routine commercial flights. This would also help pave the way for LanzaTech to fund and build their first commercial jet fuel plant to supply fuel to (VAA) and other airlines. As a UK-based partnership, it is hoped the first LanzaTech jet-fuel plant would be based in the UK,” (VAA) said.

LanzaTech estimates its process could be retrofitted to 65% of the world’s steel mills, giving the potential for the production of 30 billion gallons of ethanol and 15 billion gallons of jet fuel each year—representing just under 19% of the industry’s total fuel requirement.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) flies to >30 destinations and was the 1st commercial airline to perform a biofuel test flight.

December 2016: Passengers at London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) are being advised to check which terminal their flight departs from in January 2017 as 3 of the airport’s major carriers change locations.

(LGW), which says it is the world’s busiest single-runway airport with an estimated 43.5 million passengers in 2016, has 2 terminals: the original airport building, now known as the South Terminal, and the newer North Terminal.

As part of (LGW)’s ongoing modernization and upgrade program, British Airways (BAB) will move to the South Terminal, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) will cross to the North Terminal, while low-cost carrier easyJet (EZY), which currently operates out of both buildings, will consolidate its operation in the North Terminal.

The changes will see new facilities being brought into use for both (BAB) and (VAA), including new technology at check-in, security and immigration as well as new bag-drop zones and new (BAB) and (VAA) lounges. The moves will take place over a 72-hour period in late January 2017, with all 3 carriers operating a reduced flying program during that period.

From January 24, all easyJet (EZY) flights will depart from the North Terminal; from January 25, all (BAB) services will depart from South and all (VAA) flights will depart from North.

The only exceptions to these dates are (BAB)’s flight BA2273 to New York, which will depart from South beginning January 11 and BA2612 to Naples, which will make the switch to South from January 19. “We are ready to deliver this major step in (LGW)’s strategic transformation program,” (LGW) (COO) Chris Woodroofe said. Plans for the change have been under way for 2 years, he added. “Relocating the airlines allows greater efficiency and positions all 3 carriers for growth, which in turn drives (LGW)’s growth,” he said.

Approximately 50,000 passengers will be traveling with the 3 airlines on the 277 flights that will be relocating across the 72-hour switchover period. Around 10,000 (LGW)-based staff are also affected by the moves.

January 2017: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic Raises More Funding; Expands Flybe Code share" by (ATW) Victoria Moores, January 10, 2017.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has raised an additional +£32 million/+$39 million and has extended its code share agreement with UK regional carrier Flybe (BEE).

(VAA) raised the funding by extending a transaction secured on its London Heathrow (LHR) slots that was announced a year ago. This was the 1st of a kind in Europe and has now been extended to £252 million.

“Proceeds of the financing will support (VAA)’s long-term investment program, including a fleet modernization, which sees all aircraft replaced in a decade (giving (VAA) 1 of the world’s youngest fleets. In 2016, the airline confirmed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s, of which it is purchasing 8 outright,” (VAA) said issued January 10.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA), which is part-owned by Delta Air Lines (DAL), will release its 2016 results in March and is expected to post a 3rd consecutive year of profits. The all-long-haul airline flies to 33 destinations using a fleet of 39 Airbus A330-300s, A340-600s, Boeing 787s and 747s.

On January 9, (VAA) also said it had extended a code share with Flybe (BEE) to include flights between Scotland and (LHR), specifically connecting (BEE)’s services from Aberdeen and Edinburgh with (VAA) flights to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the USA from March 26.
“The extended code share agreement builds on the partnership we announced last year, which has proved popular with customers across the UK,” (VAA) Executive VP Commercial Erik Varwijk said.

(VAA) flies from (LHR) to Atlanta, Boston, Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lagos, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai, and Washington.

News Item A-2: A340-642 (736, GCWIN) ferried Heathrow to Lourdes for temporary storage.

February 2016: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has extended its sales and marketing representation with "Discover the World" in Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) beginning this month.

March 2017: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) posted +£23 million/+$28.3 million in pre-tax profit for 2016, up +2.2% from £22.5 million pre-tax profit in 2015. The result does not include exceptional items and fair value movements, such as a -£179.2 million loss from fuel hedging accrued during the year.

Not accounting for special items, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) reported +£187.3 million in net profit for 2016, more than doubling the £80.1 million the company registered in 2015. (VAA)’s total revenue for 2016 was £3.3 billion, down -3.3% year-over-year (YOY). Airline and cargo operations revenue for the year was £2.2 billion, down -4.8% (YOY). (VAA)’s holiday tour operations business, Virgin Holidays, took in £606.7 million in revenue during the year, up +5.4% from 2015.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo reported revenues of £174 million for 2016, down -15.9% (YOY), attributable to “overcapacity in the market and the weakness of the pound which put pressure on price and meant our yields were down -17.2% (YOY),” (VAA) (CFO) Tom McKay said. “Overall, we saw modest growth in [cargo] volume of +_1.8% through the year with a particularly strong tonnage performance from Europe, the USA, the Caribbean, and the (UAE).”

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) carried 5.4 million passengers in 2016, down -8.5% from 2015. However, traffic was stable, down -0.1% (YOY) to 37.1 billion (RPK)s. (VAA)’s total capacity decreased -2.5% (YOY) to 47.2 billion (ASK)s. Passenger load factor in 2016 was 78.7% LF, up +1.9 points from 2015.

(VAA) reported its consolidated operating costs for the year fell -£225 million (YOY), driven by a full-year fuel cost reduction of £191 million. Full-year (RASK) was down -1% to £4.06p; (CASK) increased +1.1% (YOY) to £4.64 p. “2016 continued our trend of profitability … despite consumer uncertainty impacting our business,” McKay said. “We were exposed to the -20% drop in the strength of the [UK] pound against the USA dollar between the (EU) referendum outcome and the end of 2016. Our largest outgoings are mostly paid in US dollars, while the greatest proportion of our revenue is in pounds. The higher cost for UK customers of being overseas reduced demand further.”

The company prepared for the Brexit result ahead of the (EU) referendum through currency hedging. “[But] even despite these actions, the associated adverse impact to our business of the currency movements, predominantly due to an impact on consumer demand, was approximately £50 million pounds in 2016,” McKay said.

“2017 will be a challenging year due to volatility in the macro-environment. With a weaker pound and excess supply in the market, I anticipate a challenging year for revenues,” McKay said. Nonetheless, (VAA) is targeting “significant growth from our USA point of sale as we anticipate increasing demand for travel from the USA to UK [and in the] longer term we have already taken steps towards achieving further cost efficiencies by securing forward orders for 12 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft [valued at $4.4 billion].”

1 787-9 delivery.

August 2017: News Item A-1: "Air France (AFA) - (KLM) & Virgin Atlantic (VAA): Culture Clash?" by Victoria Moores, July 28, 2017.

Air France (AFA) - (KLM) pulled a surprise move, announcing plans to acquire 31% of UK long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic (VAA), but how will the partnership play out in terms of culture and strategy?

From a strategic standpoint, the acquisition joins up a few SkyTeam (STM) alliance dots. (AFA) - (KLM) has a strong relationship with USA major Delta Air Lines (DAL), which in turn has a maximum 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic (VAA). Meanwhile, SkyTeam (STM) alliance members (DAL) and China Eastern (CEA) are each buying 10% of Air France (AFA) - (KLM).

There are definite gains to be had on both sides of the Channel. (VAA) will finally get the short-haul feed it has been craving for years, since its failed attempts to buy UK short-haul carrier bmi. Meanwhile, Air France (AFA) gets a solid London foothold to add to its Paris and Amsterdam hubs.

But do equity partnerships truly work? The "Qualiflyer Group" tried this strategy. It failed. Air Afrique (AFR) also tried it and failed.

Another equity investment story is playing out at the Etihad (EHD) Group, which has just offloaded its stake in Swiss regional Darwin Airline (flying as Etihad Regional). Meanwhile, 2 other investments: Alitalia (ALI) and airberlin (BER) continue to bleed cash, contributing to Etihad (EHD)’s -$1.87 billion net loss for 2016.

The Lufthansa (DLH) Group and the International Airlines Group (IAG)’s portfolio of airline brands seem to be better examples of industry consolidation, but these are typically full-control ventures.

How much strategic benefit do smaller (but significant) equity stakes truly bring, compared with non-equity joint ventures?

Also, how will this fit with the UK’s plans to exit the European Union (EU) (Brexit), if UK carrier Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has 79% foreign ownership (49% Delta (DAL) and 30% (AFA) - (KLM))?

Then there’s the problem of cultural fit. (AFA) - (KLM) and (VAA)’s cultures are very different. (AFA) trades on its lengthy history, exuding a certain elegance and grace. (KLM) is more in line with (VAA), with an edgy, modern and slightly rebellious personality.

But here’s the rub. Air France (AFA) and (KLM) joined forces in 2004 and (despite 13 years together) the 2 companies are still batting a serious cultural divide. How well will (AFA) mesh with (VAA)?

September 2017: "Virgin Atlantic Confident of Anglo - USA Aviation Deal Post Brexit" by By Alistair Smout, Reuters, September 07, 2017.

Britain is likely to have a bilateral arrangement governing transatlantic flights after it leaves the European Union (EU), the head of Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) said.

(VAA)'s (CEO) Craig Kreeger also said that while the weaker pound had had a negative effect on (VAA), this had not been as large as expected. Britain needs to negotiate an air transport service agreement with the (EU) to keep airline services running when Britain leaves the bloc and will also need a replacement for the "open skies" agreement between the USA and the (EU).

Ryanair (RYR)'s Michael O'Leary has issued stark warnings about the prospect of flights to the (EU) being grounded when Britain leaves in March 2019. However, Kreeger said that such a scenario for flights to the USA was unlikely.

"I have a lot of confidence that what we've seen this year is an indication of the fact that the UK is not going to cut itself off from the rest of the world, from a travel perspective," Kreeger told Reuters at an industry conference. "I'm confident that the UK and the USA will have a bilateral arrangement in place that means flights don't cease. The things that are really important will work their way out over time."

A sharp fall in the pound was one of the immediate impacts of Britain's vote to leave the (EU) in June 2016. That hurt Virgin Atlantic (VAA), which relies on revenues from British travelers in pounds but has many of its costs in dollars.

However, Kreeger said that demand from Britons to travel had held up better than expected, while the airline had also benefited from more visitors than expected from the USA and Asia.

"We'd anticipated it being a really rough year. But we've had a really encouraging year against that backdrop," he said.

"We have seen that Brits are resilient. The summer holiday is sacrosanct. Demand has dropped a little bit, but nowhere near what you would expect with a 15% increase in the cost of travel abroad."

In July, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) had said Air France (AFA) - (KLM) would buy 31% of (VAA) from Richard Branson's Virgin Group, making it the 2nd largest (VAA) shareholder after USA airline Delta (DAL), which owns a 49% stake, and reducing the Virgin Group's stake to 20%.

October 2017: News Item A-1: "Monarch (MON)’s Engineering Arm Continues as Standalone Operation" by Alan Dron, October 3, 2017.

The UK’s Monarch Aircraft Engineering Ltd (MAEL) will continue operations despite the October 2 collapse into administration of Monarch Airlines (MON) and the Monarch Travel Group. (MAEL) has hangars at both Monarch (MON)’s home base of London Luton and at Birmingham airport, as well as 10 line maintenance stations in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Although its sister company was a significant customer for its Engineering Services, (MAEL) has increasingly looked further afield for business and, in the past month, has won a contract to carry out "C1" checks on Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s fleet of 17 Boeing 787-900s over the next 4 years. At this year’s Paris Air Show, (MAEL) also signed a joint venture (JV) partnership with Boeing Global Services to collaborate on securing additional 3rd-party fleet servicing agreements. (MAEL) is a Boeing-approved Global Fleet Care (formerly "GoldCare") provider.

“(MAEL) has always been a standalone business within the Monarch Group, holding its own cash, employees and property,” (MAEL) Managing Director Chris Dare said. “Despite what has happened at Monarch Airlines (MON) and the Monarch Tour Group, (MAEL) continues to trade as normal, with renewed focus on servicing our existing clients and winning new contracts.”

March 2018: The Virgin Atlantic Group posted a -£48.5 million/-$67.6 million net loss for 2017, reversed from a +£187.3 million net profit for the year-ago period. The company cited “significant operational challenges and difficult economic backdrop” for the decline. During the year ended December 31, 2017, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) cut capacity -2.2% as transatlantic competition intensified, causing passenger numbers to drop -0.1 million to -5.3 million.

May 2018: News Item A-1: "Delta, Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic Expand Transatlantic Agreement" by David Casey, Routes Online, May 16 2018.

Air France (AFA) - (KLM), Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA) have signed “definitive agreements” to pave the way for their expanded transatlantic joint venture (JV).

The 3 1st announced the deal last July, which will result in (DAL) taking a 10% investment in (AFA) - (KLM) for €375 million and (AFA) - (KLM) acquiring a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic (VAA) from the Virgin Group for £220 million.

The Virgin Group will now have a 20% stake in Virgin Atlantic (VAA), while (DAL) will retain its 49% share.

Additionally, (DAL), (AFA) - (KLM) and (VAA) will launch a combined long-term (JV) to offer customers “the most comprehensive transatlantic route network” as they try to fight back against low-cost carriers (LCC)s. The airlines said the agreement sets out the governance, as well as the commercial and operational terms of the expanded transatlantic (JV).

They added they would now “coordinate efforts to secure the appropriate regulatory approvals.”

“The airlines’ expanded (JV) will become the preferred choice for customers travelling across the Atlantic offering the most comprehensive route network, convenient flight schedules, competitive fares and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles across all carriers.”

“Customers will also benefit from the co-location of facilities at key hub airports to improve connectivity and access to each carrier’s airport lounges for premium passengers.”

The deal comes as (AFA) - (KLM) named Frédéric Gagey the group’s Chief Financial Officer, as its interim (CEO) to replace the outgoing Jean-Marc Janaillac. In addition, a management committee is being set up comprising Gagey, (AFA) (CEO) Franck Terner and (KLM) (CEO) Pieter Elbers.

Janaillac announced his resignation earlier this month after French staff voted against a pay proposal.

June 2018: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has extended its long relationship with Information Technmology (IT) global company (SITA).

August 2018: "British [Virgins] Invade Orlando International Airport, USA" by Enrique Perrella#, "Airways" Newsletter, August 12, 2018.

On August 10, Orlando International Airport’s skyline could have been mistaken with London Heathrow (LHR) or Gatwick (LGW), as the Floridian Orlando airport (MCO) welcomed not 1, but 6 Virgin Atlantic (VAA) airplanes during its busiest day of the year.

Orlando (MCO)’s continued growth has seen a dramatic boost in both domestic and international traffic. In fact, the 1st 6 months of the year have been so busy, that the airport claims it will remain “in the history books.” Domestic movement increased by +1.2 million available seats (up by +6%), whereas international saw an increment of 355,000 available seats.

According to the airport, domestic passenger traffic is up +6.97% with 21,014,775 passengers. International movements logged 3,163,311 arrivals and departures, a +11% increment over the previous year.

On a rolling 12-month basis, the airport has welcomed 46,127,810 (an all-time new record). “Along with substantial increases in spring break and summer travelers, we can also thank our increases in air service, both foreign and domestic, for our record-breaking 1st half numbers,” said Phil Brown, (CEO) of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “Orlando International has seen nearly +7% overall growth, which puts us on track to top 47 million annual passengers by the end of the year.”

The spike in traffic has been attributed thanks to the numerous conventions, new attractions and competitive fares that are being held in Orlando this summer.

* The Virgin Invasion

See photo: VAA-2018-08 Virgin MCO Invasion.jpg).

During the airport’s busiest day of the year, (VAA) brought 5 Boeing 747-400s and 1 Airbus A330-300 from Manchester, (LGW), and Belfast.

The airport documented the unusual event through its Twitter account, where proud Floridians bragged about “Brits loving Florida in the Summer.”

(VAA) deployed all 5 airplanes from its 2 hubs in the UK and the special flight from Belfast (UK). Orlando Airport claimed that the extra capacity was to cater for a large number of students who were on vacation in England.

In addition to (VAA), British Airways (BAB), Norwegian (NWG)/(NUK), and Thomas Cook Airlines (GUE)/(JMA) also flew in from (LGW), making it a total of 6 flights from London, 2 from Manchester, and 1 from Belfast. The 1st (VAA) airplane to arrive was "Ruby Tuesday," a Boeing 747-400 coming in from Manchester as Flight VS75. In 2nd place, Flight VS27 followed from (LGW) with yet another Virgin Queen of the Skies, this time "Jersey Girl." 3rd, yet another Boeing 747 from Manchester as Flight VS73, named "Hot Lips." 4th, the single Airbus A330 in the ”Virgin 6 Pack” named "Champagne Belle," flying in from (LGW) to break in the 747 action as VS49. The 2nd-to-last 747 came in with "Pretty Woman" as flight VS15 from (LGW). And, at last, "Tinker Belle" arrived from Belfast as Flight VS161.

Overall, it was a fun day for the airport. Passengers reported rapid processing times at customs and border protection, suggesting that (MCO) was well prepared for the massive influx of passengers coming in from Britain. But for the plane spotters hanging out in the airport’s perimeter roads, it sure was 1 day that will be hard to forget.

See video:

# About the author:
Commercial pilot (FC) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Graduate. Aviation (MBA), Av-Gas Addict, Spotter, Globetrotter, Airplane Collector, Cook, (AS) "Roma" fan, and on his free time, he flies the "Airways" ship.

His favorite airline, airport and aircraft: Viasa, Tokyo-Haneda, and MD-11.

Love to Fly, Fly to Love.

September 2018: Air pollution, especially in large Asian cities, is believed to be 1 cause of reliability issues that have affected a large portion of the Rolls-Royce (RRC) (Trent 1000)-powered Boeing 787 fleet. But (RRC) said it is close to fielding a final fix to the problems. Dozens of 787s have been sitting engine-less at airports around the world while the (Trent 1000)s are inspected and modified. Air China (BEJ), Air New Zealand (ANZ), British Airways (BAB) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA) are among those affected.

October 2018: News Item A-1: Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has flown a Boeing 747-443 from Orlando, Florida, to London Gatwick on a blend of waste-gas biofuel produced by New Zealand-based LanzaTech, using an alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) process. The flight was performed by 747-443 tail number (G-VROM), operating as VS16, which arrived into Gatwick at 08:50 local time on October 3. The 747-400 was loaded with 5 tonnes of biofuel, as part of the 90 tonnes required for the transatlantic flight.

News Item A-2: Rolls-Royce (RRC) has acknowledged it has fallen behind on (Trent 7000) shipments to Airbus (EDS) that will cause knock-on delays to A330neo deliveries later this year and into 2019. News of the (Trent 7000) setback comes on the heels of fresh complaints from operators affected by extended (Trent 1000)-related groundings of Boeing 787s. (RRC) shares value lost as much as 14% on the news and at 1 point declined so precipitously that trading was suspended temporarily.

November 2018: "Virgin Atlantic In Takeover Talks With Flybe" by John McDermott, Aeronautics Aviation News & Media" November 22, 2018.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA) is in talks with regional airline Flybe (BEE), which recently put itself up for sale.

(VAA) wants to grow its long-haul operations out of smaller UK airports. Should it buy Flybe (BEE), (VAA) will be able to feed passengers from regional airports to its international network out of London Heathrow and Gatwick, London’s biggest airports.

(VAA) focuses on serving routes connecting the United Kingdom and the USA. An offer from (VAA) likely will not be monetarily significant, but it will be a step towards consolidation in the British market. Many think that such consolidation is necessary, especially as the UK nears the finalization of a Brexit deal. A merger would also ease the effects of rising oil prices on Flybe (BEE). The deal is subject to regulatory approvals.

The Stobart Group has previously been identified as a potential customer to purchase (BEE), and its intent to purchase (BEE) could complicate (VAA)'s bid. The status of (VAA)’s ownership, a combined 31% of which was recently sold to Air France (AFA) - (KLM) and Delta Air Lines (DAL), could also play a part on Flybe (BEE) negotiations.

(BEE) has a market capitalization of £21 million/USD$27 million. It issued a profit warning in October citing weak demand, a weak British pound, and high fuel prices.

Monarch Airlines (MON) went into insolvency in 2017 and Primera Air went into insolvency in October. Both, in part, cited fuel costs as a reason for their failure.

(VAA) and (BEE) already operate a code share agreement that aims at improving access to international routes through (LHR) and Manchester.

Flybe (BEE) and Virgin Atlantic (VAA) have yet to comment.


Click below for photos:
VAA-747-400 - 2012-12
VAA-787 OCT07
VAA-787-9 - 2014-08
VAA-787-9 2018-02.jpg
VAA-787-9 DREAM JEANNIE 2018-09.jpg
VAA-787-9 G-VAHH Dream Girl-2017-03.jpg
VAA-787-9 G-VAHH Seen 2015-09.jpg
VAA-787-9 G-VBEL 2018-05.jpg
VAA-787-9 G-VNEW 2018-10.jpg
VAA-787-9 G-VWOO 2018-03.jpg
VAA-A320 - Little Red-2013-03.jpg
VAA-A330-343 - 2012-04
VAA-Supersonic Jet - 2016-03.jpg

December 2018:

0 747-136 (20108, G-VMIA), PARTED OUT 2000-01.

0 747-219B (RB211-524D4) (523-22722, /81 G-VZZZ "MORNING GLORY;" 527-22723, /81 G-VBEE; 528-22724, /81 TF-ATW "ISLAND LADY;" 563-22725, /82 G-VPUF "HIGH AS A KITE;" ("HONEY PIE" "CALYPSO QUEEN" "WILD THING" "MAIDEN VOYAGER" "CALIFORNIA GIRL"), 568-22791, /82 G-VIBE "SPIRIT OF NEW YORK"), EX-(ANZ). 22723 SOLD TO (AID) 2001-12. 22724 WFU 2002-11. 22722; 22723; 22724; 22725; 22791; SOLD TO (TRX) 2005-02. 28F, 36C, 358Y.

0 747-238 (JT8D-7J) (238-20842, /74 G-VJFK; 241-20921, /74 G-VLAX), EX-(QAN), (ANU) LEASED, SOLD TO (KAB) 2001-06.

0 747-243 (134-19732, /71 G-VGIN), EX-(ALI), (GTD) LEASED, SOLD TO (KAB).

0 747-267B (RB211-524D4X) (566-22872, /82 G-VCAT; 582-23048, /83 G-VRUM), (CAT) LEASED, SOLD TO (AID) 2001-12. 12F, 32C, 412Y.

0 747-267B (RB211) (531-22530, TF-ABA), (AID) WET-LEASED UNTIL 2001-06.

0 747-283 (167-20121, /71 G-VOYG), EX-(SAS)/(BAB).

0 747-287 (274-21189, /75 G-VIRG), EX-(ARG), SOLD TO (KAB) 2001-06: ("QUEEN OF SUPSTREAM" "DANCING QUEEN").

0 747-341 (24107), (AID) WET-LEASED 2000-09. RETURNED.

4 747-4Q8 (CF6-80C2B1F) (1028-24958, /94 G-VFAB "LADY PENELOPE;" 1054-26326, /94 G-VHOT "TUBULAR BELLE;" 1081-26255, /96 G-VBIG "TINKER BELLE;" 100-28194, /97 G-VTOP "VIRGINIA PLAIN"), (ILF) LEASED. 14C, 66W, 375Y.

2 747-41R (CF6-80C2B1F) (1117-28757, /97 G-VAST "LADYBIRD;" 1177-29406, /98 G-VXLG "RUBY TUESDAY"). 14C, 62PY, 380Y.

1 747-41R (CF6-80C2B1F) (1287-32745, /01 G-VWOW "COSMIC GIRL;" 1336-32746, /03 G-VROC "MUSTANG SALLY" 2003-10), (GEF) LEASED. 32746 LAST REVENUE FLIGHT 2016-04 - FERRIED TO MARANA, ARIZONA. 44C, 62PY, 379Y.

4 747-443 (CF6-80C2) (1268-30885, /01 G-VROS "ENGLISH ROSE;" 1272-32337, /01 G-VGAL "JERSEY GIRL;" 1274-32338, G-VLIP "HOT LIPS;" 1275-32339, /01 G-VROM "BARBARELLA;" 1277-32340, /01 G-VROY "PRETTY WOMEN"), EX-(ALI). 32339; TO (REO) 2009-11. 14C, 66W, 375Y.

6/6 ORDERS 747-400X:

0 767-31AER (PW4060) (279-24428, /89 PH-MCG), (MTH) WET-LEASED. RETURNED.

10 ORDERS 777-200.

19 +2/5/20 ORDERS 787-900 DREAMLINER (TRENT 1000-J) (37967, G-VAHH "DREAM GIRL," PHOTO AT SEATAC 2017-08; 37968, G-VOOH, "LEADING LADY" PHOTO AT SEATAC 2018-03; 37969, G-VZIG "DREAM JEANNIE;" 37970, G-VYUM, 2015-05; 37971, G-VWHO; 37972, G-VCRU; 37973, G-VSPY; 37974, G-VOWS "MAID MARIAN;" 37595, G-VDIA; 37976, G-VBZZ; 37977, G-VFAN; 37978, G-VBOW; 37979, G-VWOO; 665-37980, G-VBEL; 37981, G-VNYL; 38047, G-VMAP "WEST END GIRL" 2016-05; 40956, G-VNEW SEE PHOTO), 1ST AERCAP (DEA) LEASED 2015-01. 31C ("UPPER CLASS"); 35W (INCLUDING PY LOUNGE "THE WANDER WALL"); 4 AVOLON LEASED. 198Y.


0 A320-214 (CFM56-5B4/P) (714, G-BXKA "SUNSHINE GIRL"), EX-(FLN) 1999-04. RETURNED. 174Y.

0 A320-214 (CFM56-5B4/P) (764, EX-AWA; 978), FOR (VSN) OPERATIONS 1999-05, (ATD) MAINTENANCE/COMPONENT SUPPPORT (G-VTED & G-VMED), RETURNED (GEF) 2001-11. 1130, G-VKID "SUNDANCE KID"). "MEDITERRANEAN MAIDEN." 978 & 1130 TO (TWE) 2002-08. 174Y.


0 A321-211 (CFM56-5B3/P) (1233, /00 G-VKIS "SUNKISSED GIRL"), (GEH) 5 YEAR LEASED 2000-06, FOR (VSN) OPERATIONS, RETURNED 2001-11. 220Y.

0 A321-211 (1219, /00 G-VATH "HELLENIC BEAUTY"), FOR (VAA) OPERATIONS, (GEH) 5 YEAR LEASED 2000-05, RETURNED 2001-11. 26C, 155Y.

2 A330-223 (403, G-VMNK; 432, G-VMIK; 476, G-VWND (ON ORDER)), 19C, 44W, 227Y.

9 +1 ORDER A330-343 (TRENT 772B-60) (1195*, /11 G-VSXY "BEAUTY QUEEN;" 1201*, /11 G-VKSS "MADEMOISELLE ROUGE;" 1206, G-VLUV; 1215, /12 G-VGEM; 1296, /12 G-VRAY - - SEE PHOTO - - "VAA-A330-343 - 2012-04;" 1315, G-VNYC; 1329, G-VGBR; 1341, G-VWAG; 1352, G-VUFO), INCLUDING 4 (DEA) LEASED. *VIRGIN ATLANTIC INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS. 33F, 48PY, 185Y.

1 A330-343E (1231, G-VINE), RETURNED FROM (RYN) 2012-08. 33C, 48W, 185Y.

0 A340-311 (CFM56-5C2) (002, /92 G-VHOL "JETSTREAMER;" 003, /92 G-VSEA "PLANE SAILING;" 013, /93 G-VBUS "LADY IN RED;" 015, /93 G-VAEL "MAIDEN TOULOUSE;" 016, /93 G-VSKY "CHINA GIRL;" 058, /94 G-VFLY "DRAGON LADY"), MAINTAINED BY (AFA). 013 WET-LEASED TO (VNA) 2005-06. 058; SOLD TO (FIN) 2006-06. ALL RETIRED. 34C, 35PY, 131Y.

0 A340-313 (CFM56-5C4) (114, /96 G-VSUN "RAINBOW LADY;" 164, /97 G-VAIR "MAIDEN TOKYO;" 214, /98 G-VELD "AFRICAN QUEEN;" 225, /98 G-VFAR "DIANA"), (ILF) LEASED (214), MAINTENANCE BY (AFA). ALL RETIRED. 34C, 35PY, 131Y.

12 A340-642 (TRENT 556-61) (371, /03 G-VGOA "INDIAN PRINCESS;" 376, /03 G-VATL "ATLANTIC ANGEL;" 383, /02 G-VSHY "CLAUDIA NINE;" 391, /02 G-VMEG "MYSTIC MAIDEN;" 416, /02 G-VOGE "COVER GIRL;" 449, /02 G-VFOX "SILVER LADY;" 575, 4/04 G-VEIL "DANCING GIRL;" 578, 4/05 G-VSSH "SWEET DREAMER;" 615, 2005-02; 622, G-VNAP; 2005-03; 639, G-VGAS, 2005-05; 706, G-VWKD, 2005-10; 723, G-VHIP "SOUL SISTER" 2006-01; 736, G-VWIN "LADY LUCK" 2006-02; 753, G-VFIT "DANCING QUEEN;" 764, G-VFIZ, 2006-07; 765, G-VYOU "EMMELINE HEANEY" 2006-08; 768, G-VRED, 2006-10; 787, G-VWEB, 2006-12; 804, G-VBUG), CANCELED ITS 8 OPTIONS. LAUNCH CSTMR. (ILF) 12 YEAR LEASED. 371; 376; 383; 391; 416; 449; 575; 578; 615; RETIRED. 736 FERRIED TO LOURDES FOR TEMPORARY STORAGE 2017-01. 45C, 38W, 225Y.

0 ORDERS A340-642 (TRENT 556-61), CANCELED 6 ORDERS 2010-01:

12 ORDERS A350-1041 (TRENT XWB-97) (274, 298; 326); ON ORDER:

0/0 ORDERS (2013-02) A380-841 (TRENT 970-84) (010, NTU), 853 PAX:



Click below for photos:
VAA-1-Sir Richard Branson 2015-12.jpg

Richard was born in 1950 and was educated at Stowe School. It was at this school that he began to set up "Student Magazine" when he was just 16. By 17, he'd also set up Student Advisory Centre, which was a charity to help young people.

In 1970, he founded "Virgin" as a mail order record retailer, and not long after, he opened a record shop in Oxford Street, London. During 1972, a recording studio was built in Oxfordshire, and the 1st Virgin artist, Mike Oldfield, recorded "Tubular Bells," released in 1973.

This album went on to sell >5 million copies! Since then, many household names, including Belinda Carlisle, Genesis, Phil Collins, Janet Jackson, and The Rolling Stones, have helped to make Virgin Music one of the top 6 record companies in the world. The equity of the Virgin Music Group: - record labels, music publishing, and recording studios was sold to (THORN) (EMI) in 1992 in a US$1 billion deal.

The Virgin Group has now expanded into international music Megastores, air travel, mobile, financial, retail, music, internet, drinks, rail, hotels and leisure, with around 200 companies in >30 countries.

Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA), formed in 1984, became the 2nd largest British long haul international airline and operated a fleet of 747 and A340 airplanes to New York, Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Delhi, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Shanghai and the Caribbean. (VAA) is based on the concept of offering a competitive and high quality Upper Class (F), Premium Economy (PY), and Economy (Y) service. (VAA) has won many major awards, including "Airline of the Year" award several times.

During 1997, Virgin took over Britain's 2 most run-down rail franchises, Cross Country and the West Coast Main Line. (VAA) is currently engaged in a £2 billion fleet replacement program.

In 2002, the combined sales of the different Virgin holding companies exceeded £4 billion. In addition to his own business activities, Richard is a trustee of several charities including the Virgin Healthcare Foundation, a leading healthcare charity, which was responsible for the launch of a health education campaign relating to (AIDS) in 1987.

The Foundation has also become involved in a lobbying campaign called "Parents Against Tobacco," which aims to restrict tobacco advertising and sponsorship in sport. His help in the initial funding of charity projects helped that organization to raise >£100 million through campaigns such as "Comic Relief" and many other charities.

And to keep his adrenaline levels high, Richard has been involved in a number of world record-breaking attempts since 1985. In 1986, his boat, "Virgin Atlantic Challenger II" rekindled the spirit of the Blue Riband by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the fastest ever recorded time. This was followed a year later by the epic hot air balloon crossing of the same ocean in "Virgin Atlantic Flier." This was not only the 1st hot-air balloon to cross the Atlantic, but was the largest ever flown at 2.3 million cubic feet capacity, reaching speeds >130 miles per hour/209 k/ph.

Still after the ultimate adventure, in January 1991, Richard crossed the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada, the furthest distance of 6,700 miles. Again, he broke all existing records with speeds of up to 245 miles per hour in a balloon of 2.6 million cubic feet.

Between 1995 and 1998, Richard, Per Lindstrand and Steve Fossett (who joined the team after the tragic death of Alex Ritchie), made a number of attempts to circumnavigate the globe by balloon. In late 1998, they made a record-breaking flight from Morocco to Hawaii, but their dream of a global flight was shattered by bad weather, and then a Swiss team successfully circumnavigated the globe in early 1999.

In December 1999, Richard Branson was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Millennium New Year's Honors List for "services to entrepreneurship". Well done, Sir!

October 1st 2014: The unlimited vacation policy.
By Judy Martel -
For those who meticulously plan their annual 2-week break from work and then suffer the potential disappointment of a scheduling conflict or the inevitable letdown (when it's over for another 12 months), the idea of taking vacation time, whenever you want, and for as long as you want, may seem like a mirage.

Yet billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the conglomerate, the Virgin Group, recently made an announcement that may unleash a flood of resumes his way. On his blog on the corporate website, he announced that the parent companies in both the USA and the UK are following Netflix in its "(non) policy" of allowing salaried staff to take off "whenever they want, for as long as they want," with no prior approval and no tracking of how many days they take.

* Spike in productivity

Richard noted that his daughter had read about Netflix's stance on vacations and presented it to him, with the news that it results in a spike in creativity, morale and productivity. "Needless to say, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to learn more," he wrote.

He added, "It is always interesting to note how often the adjectives 'smart' and 'simple' describe the cleverest of innovations - - well, this is surely one of the simplest and smartest initiatives, I have heard of in a long time."

Billionaire business people typically get that way by being creative and responsive to change. Richard realizes that when employees are happy, he gets more out of them and when they feel invested in the company's success, there's no need to force them to be responsible. As he pointed out in his blog, the assumption is that staff will only take time off when they feel it won't negatively impact the company or their career.

What do you think of the vacation (non)-policy and its effect on staff and business?

Read more:
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October 02, 2014 at 7:41 pm: Reply by Chris VerEllen:

This is truly a great idea. I had worked at a blow molding facility for >15 years. They had a great benefits policy which had me at almost 5 weeks vacation. I was hourly, but the fact knowing that with due time, you had your own time off. I can honestly say, that during that time off, I had the peace and comfort of coming up with ideas, ways of improvement and procedures of running my maintenance staff that worked, and took the day to day pressure off of my mind. It really helped. I did not have unlimited time, but getting away, clearing your mind, made great strides. I do agree, the hourly employees make the company and a lot more should be done for them! I have been in the manufacturing world for 30 years, and it is the hourly employees that keep these companies, corporations, states and country alive. CUDOS!


"Airline Business" Interview - - 2013-08:
A week, they say, is a long time in politics. Well, the same could be said about 3 months in the airline world. When "Airline Business" sat down with Steve Ridgway last October, all we knew for certain was that he was preparing to pass the reins to (at that time) an unnamed successor who would have a lot on their hands. Within 90 days of Ridgway’s November 2012 Airline Business cover interview, Virgin (VAA) had undergone a USA invasion in the form of eager new shareholder Delta Air Lines (DAL), and former American Airlines (AAL) executive, Craig Kreeger taking the helm.

The UK airline also got the nod to launch domestic services (under the “Little Red” brand) through the award of remedy slots at London Heathrow released by British Airways (BAB) as a condition of its acquisition of (BMI) (BMA). One thing that didn’t change during those three months was (VAA)’s loss-making status, and 1 of Craig’s 1st tasks after joining, was to confirm more red ink, with (VAA) returning a pre-tax loss of -£69.9 million/-$106.7 million for its 2012 to 2013 fiscal year (to the end of February). His number one priority is to reverse that loss-making status <2 years.

With such fundamental changes going on both inside and out, Virgin Atlantic (VAA) was gearing up for potentially the biggest transformation in its almost 30-year history. With that in mind, "Airline Business" broke with tradition and conducted 2 cover interviews with consecutive (CEO)s less than a year apart.

Craig had a clear view of how the airline must be transformed from a loss-making operation to one fit for long-term survival, without losing the trailblazing image it was so famous for. And despite this invasion of “suits” from legacy network carriers across the pond and the focus on profitability, Craig told "Airline Business" that (VAA) would not lose sight of its core values “to remain bright red, customer-focused, and innovative.”

Having served (AAL) in a number of executive roles for almost 3 decades, Craig was having to quickly adapt to a world which was slightly different to the one he left behind in Texas: “I used to wear a tie if need be, but not as a matter of preference,” he joked, and he suggested the cultural differences between (VAA) and the USA carriers were not a stark as some might think.

He may have projected a relaxed attitude outwardly, but Craig had already taken some tough decisions on the airline’s management structure. These followed the departure of (VAA)'s Chief Operating Officer (and rival for the top job) Julie Southern. “After Julie chose to move on, I took that opportunity to look at the organization, and decided to flatten it. I eliminated one layer to help me be closer to our people who deliver Customer Service, and ultimately be closer to our customers. It gave me better insight into the company and hopefully helped streamline how we do things.”


Craig effectively eliminated the Executive Director layer and reduced the total number of senior positions in the company “to gain some efficiency and make the organization a little flatter.” This resulted in “a couple of other exits” within the management team, he added, one of which was (COO) Steve Griffiths.

The immediate task was to return the Virgin Atlantic (VAA) business to profit, and Craig had a clear plan to make this a reality during its next full fiscal year, ending February 2015. “My objective (and what my success would be measured by) was to stabilize the financial side of the business while retaining the magic that was what the company is. My job with (VAA) was to take that brand and try and take advantage of the things that was being done to address the shortfalls we had financially,” he said.

Craig was confident he could complete his mission, because he said (VAA) had been affected disproportionately by several issues that have caused its financial woes over the last five years. “Fuel prices impact all the airlines, but I suspect we are the only one who could have said three years ago that every one of our airplanes were four-engined. We didn’t have the right fleet for a rising fuel price environment, so [high] fuel prices hit us harder.”

(VAA) was in the midst of a roll-over which would see its fleet of 19 4-engined A340s be replaced by more efficient twin jets. 10 A330s were introduced over 3 years, while the 1st of 16 787-9s arrived from September the following year. “We took out a total of 6 A340s over 12 months, and the fleet was replaced [entirely] by the 787s, and the remainder should all be gone by 2017 to 2018,” he said.

So within 5 years, the vast majority of the (VAA) fleet would be twins, “and that by itself remedied a lot of the company’s financial difficulty,” said Craig.


The “2nd big thing” that has blighted (VAA) is its disproportionate reliance on 1 economy, he said. “More so than British Airways (BAB) even, as we generate a high percentage of our revenue in the UK. “When I look at how (VAA) was going to compete in the long run effectively, creating stronger revenue generating capability in the USA was 1 of the things that would help us be successful in competing for customers,” Craig said.

Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s commercial tie-up with (DAL), which was being implemented as part of the USA carrier’s December 2012 acquisition of a 49% stake from Singapore Airlines (SIA), provided the solution for this conundrum. In July, (VAA) and (DAL) launched a major code share and frequent flyer program tie-up as the 1st step in a commercial partnership, which would see a metal-neutral transatlantic joint venture (JV) implemented early the following year, once anti-trust approval was received. “(BAB) had been able to achieve a bigger footprint in the USA through its relationship with American Airlines (AAL). We believe that our relationship with (DAL), which would encourage its frequent travelers, corporate accounts and travel agency partners to utilize our airplanes [could do the same].

“(DAL)’s distribution in the USA and our product and service would be a hugely winning combination (we think it took a lot of customers off our competitors and move them on to us). That would remedy one of our other shortfalls, which has been a reliance on what had been, for the previous five years, a pretty weak economy,” Craig said.

Craig expected the (DAL) tie-up would also boost its UK earnings, thanks to the 40 or so additional destinations it would offer beyond its USA gateways, by connecting on to (DAL) domestic flights. “We’ve struggled with a lack of connectivity in our network, [compared with] (BAB). We’ve begun to offer a lot more connections with "Little Red," as well as on our Delhi and Mumbai flights, which were timed to connect with the USA flights,” he said.


Little Red launched, flying between Heathrow (LHR) and Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Manchester with 4 A320s operating on wet lease from Aer Lingus (ARL), which provided the flight (FC) and cabin crew (CA).

The primary function was to feed (VAA)’s long-haul services, and was implemented to overcome the demise of (BMI), following its take-over by (BAB) the previous year. Although the new service was in its very early days, Craig was coy about its performance: “When we measured success on Little Red, it was looking at the total incremental value it created, both on the short-haul and on the long-haul that the short-haul brought to us. In that sense, it’s on track and building (it’s in the start-up phase) and we’re comfortable where we’re headed,” he said. “The key thing for us is the flow customers, and we’re seeing that build. It’s on the path we anticipated.”

Craig declined, on competitive grounds, to specify the split on the Little Red routes between point-to-point and connecting passengers. He also refused to say how long (VAA) would give the short-haul operation: “I anticipated it working so I didn’t have to give a date,” he said.

When we spoke to Ridgway later, he proudly pointed out that “there was not really another Virgin Atlantic (VAA) anywhere in the world” i.e. a major airline predominantly serving long-haul destinations against a powerful local competitor. But could such a business be sustainable in the long-term?

Yes, said Craig: “The [Virgin Atlantic] brand is about being different and creative, and what makes us a viable long-term competitor was that we brought that to a marketplace that could use it and value it. “We had to be big enough, fly to the right cities and offer a network (including our partners) that created connections and gave enough scope and scale so that people could choose us with some regularity.”

Craig saw the Virgin brand as a key draw for (DAL)’s stake-holding deal: “I think it was [attracted by] a blend of access to London Heathrow (LHR) and a service culture that would allow us to compete effectively for business from the other alliances. “(DAL) viewed that [reputation for good customer service] as a competitive opportunity. It saw that if it could put its customers on to our airplanes and gave them those experiences, then it would enhance its ability to sell in the USA.”

(LHR) had been a bit of a “white space” on (DAL)’s network, said Craig. It only entered (LHR) over 5 years ago and served 5 USA points: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York (JFK). (VAA) provides it with “much more depth in the most important market (New York).”


If the strength of Virgin Atlantic (VAA)’s image was such an important deal maker, then it would seem to cast strong doubt over the assurances made by rival airline (BAB) boss, Willie Walsh that (DAL)’s end-game was to eliminate the "Virgin" brand. “I fully recognized that one of my primary objectives was to protect Richard’s privates (and I would achieve it),” joked Craig, in reference to Walsh’s “knee in the groin” threat to Branson over the Virgin brand the previous year.

Sir Richard Branson, of course, retained his 51% controlling stake in Virgin Atlantic (VAA). Although (VAA) is 1 of the British entrepreneur’s many businesses, he famously keeps a firm hand in its affairs, as (VAA) is probably his favorite child. But Craig doesn’t envisage that his boss’s attention will get in the way: “I speak to him regularly. Richard is very interested in this business, but I feel I have the flexibility to do what I need to do. And for me, as a new (CEO), he’s a very helpful guy to have around.”

There has been speculation around the sale of some or all of Branson’s stake to give (DAL) (or a group comprising (DAL) a controlling interest, but Craig does not envisage such a development in the near term: “Everything I’ve seen, when chatting with Richard is that he’s right now very happy with his stake and intends to continue with it. So I don’t see [other investors coming in] as a likely next step in the process.

“My belief is that when we manage to turn this into a profitable company, Richard will be extremely happy with that 51% stake and that it’s generating the kind of returns [it should be].”

From a fleet perspective, beyond the A340 roll-over a longer-term priority is to devise a succession plan for its 747-400s, which may or may not include the A380.

(VAA)’s 12 747-400s were recently refurbished “so that fleet has quite some time to run”, said Craig. “We’re starting to think about replacing that airplane, with deliveries from around 2018 to 2019 into the 2020s. That will be the next fleet decision for us.”

The status of (VAA)’s order for 6 A380s, originally placed in 2001, is less clear: “We’ve deferred the A380 deliveries and at some point, we’ll have to take a decision ultimately whether to take them or not. As we sit here today, we don’t have any definitive plans to take them.”

Almost since the day (VAA) launched in 1984, its relationship with its UK rival (BAA) has been an acrimonious one (and ended up in court on occasion). But with Craig being a long-serving executive with (BAB)’s alliance partner, (AAL) (where he spent 6 years in the UK as Senior VP International from 2004), perhaps there could be a thawing in that frosty relationship. Or perhaps not. “We’re always going to be intense competitors. I obviously have a historical good relationship with a number of folks at (BAB), but the nature of our jobs is such that it’s always going to be that way,” Craig said.

And despite such long service with one of (VAA)’s major competitors, he seems genuinely excited to be fighting for the other side now. “When I think of Virgin Atlantic (VAA), I think of two things: welcoming and cool. I’ve always been impressed with the way it has punched above its weight and looked after customers, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”

Craig’s challenge then, is to make (VAA) profitable and stay cool while he does it.


Craig was an interesting selection as the successor to the very English and chilled-out Steve Ridgway, who had served Sir Richard Branson’s airline for most of its 3 decades in existence, and been the (CEO) for 12 of those years. 1 known rival for the job was (VAA)’s Chief Commercial Officer Julie Southern, who has now left the airline following Craig’s appointment.

“I can only speak of what I bring, which is 27 years in the business [at (AAL)] and I’ve had responsibility in virtually every part of the airline except Technical/Operations,” said Craig. “I’ve quite a bit of experience in the transatlantic marketplace and overseeing joint ventures (both with British Airways (BAB) and with Japan Airlines (JAL).

“So I have a bit of very relevant experience, and I think as a leader I’ve got some qualities around communication and people that fit very nicely into the (VAA) culture.”


Virgin Atlantic (VAA) has never been a member of a global alliance and is still not certain that it will be. But if and when that happens, the (DAL)/AirFrance (AFA)-(KLM) led SkyTeam (STM) alliance will be the 1 “for all the [obvious] reasons”, said Craig.

He said: “The open question is whether that makes sense relative to a blend of bilateral partnerships that collectively adds its own set of values. Today, we have a number of partners who are not in the SkyTeam (STM) alliance, who generate value for our company and we’re very happy with. “So what we need to decide is whether there’s more value for (VAA) to be a member of the (STM) alliance and no longer have some of those partners, or if there’s more value to continue a strategy of having bilateral partners. And that’s not a simple question.”

Craig pointed out that, with 60% of the (VAA) route network going to and from the USA, ensuring its (DAL) tie-up runs smoothly is “more valuable than the sum total of all other partnerships.”

He adds: “We’re very focused on trying to do things in the right order: – firstly, get [the Delta tie-up] running successfully; secondly, go look at other bilateral partnerships, like (KLM) and AirFrance (AFA) for example; and thirdly, whether it makes sense to join an alliance.”

Craig said he doesn’t know where (VAA) stands from the (STM) alliance’s perspective, in terms of whether the alliance and its members would welcome it joining. With regards to (AFA)-(KLM)’s position as the alliance’s prime European members, Craig said he is “optimistic” that they could reach agreement about (VAA) joining, should it decide to do so.

Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic (VGC) since the formation of the company in 2004, retired from that role in January 2011. George Whitesides, who was appointed as the 1st full time (CEO) in May 2010, assumed the title of President & (CEO).

George worked for the Virgin Group since 1987 in corporate affairs, brand development and investment related roles. In 2007, he went part time to follow other business interests, but took on responsibility for leading Virgin Galactic (VGC) through its design and investment phase. The investment round, fully funding the company through launch of commercial operations, was successfully concluded with Aabar Investments. Both the company’s SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo vehicles are now undergoing flight test.

Commenting on Whitehorn’s departure, George said, “I wish Will the very best for the future. We knew each other for 6 years and built both a warm friendship as well as a strong professional relationship. It was his and Sir Richard’s vision that brought Virgin Galactic (VGC) to the exciting future it now has. I am honored to be taking this great company forward into the new decade to answer the growing markets for commercial, scientific and industrial space development. We now have a flying space flight system, testing on a regular basis above the Mojave desert; we have a beautiful home nearing completion at Spaceport America in New Mexico, and most importantly, we have >400 potential astronauts signed up and monies on deposit in excess of >$54 million. Will leaves us in strong shape and he will never be far from the project as we move toward commercial operations.”

Commenting on his departure, Whitehorn added, “I feel incredibly privileged to have played my part in developing the most exciting business plan and space technology anywhere in the world today. Galactic (VGA) was the result of Sir Richard’s vision and I am delighted that the dream from several years ago is now becoming a reality. I am confident that people will look back on this project as the beginning of the second age of space. Of course I will miss this fantastic team of people, all of whom I have loved working with, but I know they are in great hands with George and I look forward to seeing them all up there in space in the next few years.”

Will is retiring from Virgin Galactic (VGC) to concentrate on other business interests. He is currently Chairman of Next Fifteen Communications and the Loewy Group Ltd. In addition, he sits on the boards of the (SECC) in Glasgow and the (ILN) Group in London. He is a member of the British Government’s Science & Technology Facilities Council and The Space Leadership Council. In December 2010, he was also being awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Space Medal for his services to the industry.

January 2017: With Virgin USA (VUS)' takeover by Alaska Airlines (ASA), David is no longer President & (CEO).

Shai has been with the Virgin Group since 2007 and is a Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) board member.

































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