February 24, 2024

Virgin poll calls for more competition at Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic has stepped up its campaign to become the UK's second flag-carrier by commissioning research that reveals passengers would welcome greater competition between airlines operating out of Heathrow Airport.

The recent poll by Populus for the airline showed more than half (57%) of British travellers would support more choice at Heathrow airport, while three-fifths (59%) of passengers would choose to connect via Heathrow if there were more airlines and routes to choose from.

The survey of 2,103 British passengers found that more than a third (36%) had connected through European airports such as Madrid and Frankfurt to long-haul destinations rather than via the UK’s hub airport.

Passengers said they avoided Heathrow because it was cheaper to take another route or there were no connecting flights to Heathrow from their regional airport.

The findings follow recent research by a former Treasury economist that revealed 18.5 million people each year are flying on 77 routes from Heathrow where there is no competition between airlines.

The study estimated that the lack of competition means passengers could be paying up to 10% more on a standard return flight.

“It’s crystal clear that the British public wants more choice at Heathrow Airport,” says Virgin Atlantic’s CEO, Shai Weiss.

“Virgin Atlantic is best positioned to tackle the lack of competition head on, as the second flag carrier that our country so desperately needs. Change is not a choice but a necessity.”

Weiss continues: “We have outlined our ambitions to create effective competition when Heathrow expands by proposing 84 new routes, linking domestic and European flights to international destinations, benefitting passengers through more choice and lower fares.

“With a third runway due to open from 2026, the government has a unique opportunity to transform competition at the airport by re-assessing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated. This once in a generation opportunity cannot be missed,” he adds.

Virgin is currently lobbying the UK government to reform the way Heathrow’s new take-off and landing slots are allocated. It has also launched a new campaign website, twoflagcarriers.com, to strengthen its bid to become the UK’s second flag carrier.

Last month, Virgin Atlantic laid out its route plans for Heathrow’s third runway that represent a fourfold increase on the airline’s current international network and include unserved destinations such as Kolkata in India and Indonesian capital Jakarta.

It has also signed a deal with China Eastern for a joint venture that will open up routes to China, including a codeshare on services between London and Shanghai from Spring 2020.