Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Thu Jun 14, 2001 2:06 pm

TORONTO (Reuters) - Virgin Atlantic Airlines is looking at both Vancouver and Nairobi as potential new routes but is disappointed at the slow progress made with flights to India, the carrier's chairman, Richard Branson, said.

"I would be very surprised if we are not flying to Vancouver withinn three years," he told journalists during the first Virgin flight from London-Gatwick to Toronto on Tuesday.

Branson said he was frustrated by the lack of progress on flights to India, where the carrier has been unable to expand operations as expected following its code share agreement with Air India.

He said the situation was "very stupid, very sad", and it meant there was a loss of business for India, for trade and passengers between India and the UK.

Branson said he had spoken to the Indian deputy prime minister and had also sent him a letter on the subject.

"There is very strong passenger demand from the UK to could fly three 747s a day to both Delhi and Mumbai to meet demand, which is underlined by 40 percent of UK-to-India traffic going through third countries," he said.

Over the last eight years capacity to and from New York (to Britain) has gone up two to three times whilst to India it has remained unchanged, he added.

Branson also said that Kenya was high on his list as a destination and there is "a huge potential in Africa."

The carrier begins flights to Lagos from London on July 16 and already flies to both Johannesburg and Cape Town.

It is also looking at other destinations such as Dubai, Singapore and Bangkok, he added.

Virgin Atlantic is due to take delivery of five Boeing 747-400s this year and eight Airbus A340-600s starting in 2002.

Asked whether the airline might consider acquiring freighters, he said, "We wouldn't rule it out, we're opportunistic," although the freight market has recently weakened more than expected.

A freighter operation to Shanghai could be considered because there is good two way business and ideally this would return to the UK via the Middle East, Virgin director or cargo, John Lloyd said. "But it is not the right time at the moment," he said.

The aircraft could be leased or might be operated as a joint venture "but all options were open at this stage," Lloyd added.

On cargo cooperation with Singapore Airlines, which has a 49-percent stake in Virgin Atlantic, Lloyd said it was taking a bit longer than expected, but there were now more contacts and progress on working together, including in the IT and cargo handling sectors was being made.

Virgin Atlantic business "has three elements-- business and economy (passengers) and freight... if anyone of them fails, we could plunge into huge losses," Branson said.
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RE: Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Thu Jun 14, 2001 2:21 pm

The Indian government will play ball with the Brits as soon as AI is granted more slots at LHR.

They would be stupid to allow BA/VS increased service on LHR-India when AI is restricted to 20 slots/week, despite available frequencies.

I usually detest the Indian government's interference, but this is one time they are doing the right thing.
"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada
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RE: Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Thu Jun 14, 2001 3:16 pm

Moscow was on Virgin's list of future destinations.
Any info?
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RE: Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Thu Jun 14, 2001 7:26 pm

How about Australia and New Zealand certainly I thought Australia was on their list.


RE: Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Thu Jun 14, 2001 7:30 pm

On the freight front, lets see an Atlas in Virgin colours! Big grin

Good luck with their expansion in Africa.

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RE: Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Sun Jun 17, 2001 5:04 am

Kevin, Moscow was awarded to VS and then the Government had a change of heart and gave it to BMI instead.

Scott, unfortunately I can't see Australia or New Zealand happening in the near future. I think it is one of the companies long term aims.

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RE: Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Sun Jun 17, 2001 6:28 am

Jetstreamer- has VS got the right to St. Petersburg, because I thought VS was awarded Moscow, and bmi was awarded St. Petersburg, so have they swapped or does VS now not have the right to any Russian routes?

Does anyone know when VS ended their flights to Moscow, and why?

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RE: Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Mon Jun 18, 2001 12:50 am

Englandair, as far as I know VS does not have any rights for St Petersburg or Moscow, but I could be wrong.

VS used to stop at Moscow en route to Narita. I think that had something to do with not being allowed to fly direct to Narita. As soon as that restriction was lifted, the Moscow stop off was discontinued.
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RE: Virgin Eyeing Nairobi, Vancouver

Mon Jun 18, 2001 12:56 am

Theyre also interested in Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok and Singapore Smile
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