Virgin Atlantic to wind up UK

By Chris C., October 7 2014
Virgin Atlantic to wind up UK

Virgin Atlantic will axe its ‘Little Red’ arm next year, bringing to an end the airline’s soirée into the UK domestic market.

Its daily services from London Heathrow to Manchester will run until March 2015, while flights from Heathrow to both Edinburgh and Aberdeen will be axed in September 2015 when the airline takes its final flight.

Launched in March 2013, Little Red went after British Airways’ monopoly on key UK domestic routes, giving travellers an alternative to the flag carrier while also opening up more destinations for those arriving from or departing on Virgin Atlantic’s international flights.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger attributed the shutdown to “the totally inadequate number of slots made available by the European Commission”, which didn’t allow Little Red to come “close to BA’s network position.”

“The time lag between the takeover of BMI and our entering the market also meant Little Red initially faced an uphill battle to win recognition and convert customers to its services.”

The airline also shared that “high levels of connections onto Virgin Atlantic’s long haul network have always been important to the success of Little Red”, but that the demand on Little Red “has been predominantly from point to point customers rather than connecting traffic.”

Customers can hop from Little Red to Virgin Atlantic's bar-bearing flights
Customers can hop from Little Red to Virgin Atlantic's bar-bearing flights

While Qantas Frequent Flyer members can earn points and status credits with British Airways, Little Red enabled Virgin Australia Velocity members to do likewise on its flights – an extension from the ‘earn and burn’ arrangements with Virgin Atlantic mainline.

Virgin Atlantic President Richard Branson said that the airline was offered “a meagre package of slots with a number of constraints on how to use them, and we decided to lease a few planes on a short term basis to give it our best shot.

“The odds were stacked against us and sadly we just couldn’t attract enough corporate business on these routes,” he added.

Little Red’s existing cabin crew members will be offered similar positions with Virgin Atlantic mainline when operations cease next year.

Virgin Atlantic’s existing flights from Manchester to Las Vegas, Orlando and Barbados are unaffected, as are planned flights from Manchester to Atlanta next year and the airline’s seasonal flights from Glasgow to Orlando, plus a new route between Glasgow and Las Vegas.

Members of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will soon enjoy as-yet-undefined “special loyalty benefits” when flying with Little Red, with increased earning rates on flights and a “significant” reduction in the number of Flying Club miles needed to redeem for a Little Red flight.

The wind-up of Little Red follows a major review of Virgin Atlantic’s wider network, which last month saw flights to Japan, India, Canada and South Africa face the axe after flights between Sydney and Hong Kong were terminated in May.

Also read: Status match: Virgin Australia lounge access via Little Red, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and BA Executive Club

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

It seems Delta is able to do what Singapore Airlines has failed; to force Virgin Atlantic to deliver profit, no matter what the consequences are for the long term.

That could explain this move and their recent move to cut BOM, NRT, JNB, SYD and focus on the North Atlantic market.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2213

It makes sense, though. It's all about raining the heavy artillery on BA-AA, and their home turf is TATL. I think there's money to be made elsewhere too, but I think their route cull was needed.

P.S.: They're axing CPT, not JNB.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1252

RIP Little Red.

Virgin Atlantic Airways - Flying Club

11 Apr 2011

Total posts 30

Disapointing, but the service wasn't widely used (my flight was barely half full) and was the only Virgin Atlantic service I'd ever experienced that didn't run to schedule.

However, it's still possible to earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles on domestic travel within the UK (albeit not as many miles as a Little Red flight) -

*Flying Club members can earn 2 miles per 1GBP spent on Virgin Trains (which departs London Euston to many points throughout GB up to Edinburgh and Glasgow). Although the entire journey must begin and end on a Virgin Trains service, so no switching out or including other rail operators on the ticket. At 4hrs 32mins London to Glasgow, this MAY prove comparabile to hanging around for a connecting flight and then travelling from GLA to the city centre timewise.

*By purchasing rail tickets on thetrainline (via VS's Shops Away online store), you can earn 1 mile per 1GBP spent. This includes the Heathrow Express so you could purchase this and a Virgin Trains ticket as above and earn points

*There's still car hire - with Flying Club earning available with Alamo, Avis, Hertz and Sixt.

Course you could always just earn QFF miles and go BA also..

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