Bye bye Flybe
Virgin kicked off the new year in style, forming a consortium with Stobart and others to buy out the struggling UK regional carrier Flybe. Since then, Flybe has been busy adjusting its routes and aligning its services in preparation for becoming Virgin Connect in just a few days’ time. Exciting times for Flybe for sure, and promising prospects for Virgin to create a feeder network for its long haul flights.
Absolutely one of the biggest highlights for Virgin this year has been the arrival of the new A350-1000 to its fleet. It’s been a hot topic all year, from the reveal of the liveries to our tour of the new cabins, all leading up to finally climbing on board Red Velvet for a firsthand look.
We’ve talked about how the A350 is a game changer, and it’s not all up the front either. While the new Upper Class seat is certainly a marvel, there have been some massive improvements in premium and economy too. Just another example of how Virgin is always innovating, and why it thinks ‘fleet consistency is an excuse to be lazy’.
All year we’ve been watching the progress of Virgin’s phase out of its ionic quadjet aircraft. The 747s and A340s have all been on borrowed time for the longest time, but for now we can relax as there are still plenty of four engined Virgin planes in the skies right now.
The 747s have a fair bit longer left, as Virgin confirmed to Simple Flying that they plan to fly the jumbos until 2021. However, that doesn’t mean all of them. Towards the end of October we said goodbye to Tinker Belle, a 747-400 that had been in service for over 23 years.
The A340s, by all rights, should be mothballed by now. However, three are still operating at least for the time being. The last to retire was G-VYOIU, Emmeline Heaney, which left the fleet in October. Still with us is Dancing Queen, Lady Luck and ‘a big Virgin Atlantic thank you’ liveried Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated. Delays with fixing the Trent 1000 means we will, hopefully, be seeing these beautiful buts until the summer.
Shalom Tel Aviv
Virgin undertook its first flight to the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv in Israel in September this year. As per usual, Virgin went above and beyond to make this flight perfect for every guest. A special menu was served on board, including shakshuka and shawarma, as well as movies with Hebrew subtitles and inflight announcements in both languages.
As we roll towards 2020, we can expect another fabulous year from the British carrier. To start with, we’ll be seeing a full integration of Flybe/Virgin Connect into the Virgin brand, hopefully making that regional carrier a lot more ‘red on the inside’ (baggage allowance improvements please!).
There are more new routes on the horizon too, with that Sao Paulo connection all set for the off. With the Air France-KLM and Delta joint ventures approved and ready to go, the possibilities for seamless connections to a growing network will really come into its own this year.
Virgin didn’t make a profit last year, but it made a smaller loss than it has done previously. A $34m loss was a big improvement on 2017s loss of $65m. When we met Virgin’s VP of Customer Experience, Daniel Kerzner, he told us that he didn’t foresee a profit in 2019 either. The airline is still investing in its people, fleet and products, so the end of year report is unlikely to be in the black.
However, he forecast that 2020 would be the year Virgin would break even, and after that, it would be profit all the way. Simple Flying is excited to see what Virgin has up its sleeve for 2020, and hope to see more exciting developments with the ambitious UK airline.