Virgin Atlantic is eying a considerable expansion into Pakistan with the announcement of three new routes. The routes will operate from both London and Manchester, and come after the airline significantly cut its network when dealing with a drop in demand earlier this year.
Airlines around the world are re-evaluating their networks to deal with a drop in travel demand that is expected to last until at least 2024. While most airlines are cutting routes, some are increasing the services on offer. One element stimulating new service additions is the lucrative cargo business, which has seen capacity plummet as a result of the cancellation of passenger flights.
Three new Pakistan routes
Virgin Atlantic will be launching three new routes into Pakistan. Two will originate from London, with the third starting in Manchester, the UK’s third busiest airport. Flights from London will start at London Heathrow, since Virgin scrapped its London Gatwick home earlier this year. These will operate to Lahore to the east of the country, in addition to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.
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Meanwhile, Virgin’s new Pakistani route from Manchester will only serve Islamabad. The airline anticipates that ticket sales for the new routes will go on sale next month, pending regulatory approval. Like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic is currently offering a temporary simplified catering service on its flights.
Virgin will compete with British Airways on just one of these routes. Last year British Airways relaunched its Heathrow to Islamabad route after an eleven-year hiatus.
Capturing the VFR market
Commenting on the new services, Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic said,
“Pakistan is an extremely exciting opportunity for us – it boasts one of the largest foreign-born populations in both the UK and the US and, as people start to travel to visit loved ones, we’re anticipating the demand to visit friends and relatives will increase post COVID-19.”
Virgin points out that Pakistan has the seventh largest diaspora in the world. The airline is hoping that its services will be used by those wishing to travel to visit friends and relatives. However, its not just UK travelers that the airline is targeting.
Virgin has timed its flights so that connections can be made onwards to the United States. This, it hopes, will also make it a popular choice for US travelers. Yesterday Simple Flying reported that the US embassy in Pakistan had warned against travel on Pakistani airlines.
While the focus of airline route launches are usually on the customers that will sit above the deck, Virgin also has cargo below the deck in mind. The airline is marketing the new route as a ‘fast, efficient cargo service’, that is well suited to carrying fresh produce and textiles between Pakistan, the UK, and the US.
What do you make of Virgin’s new connections with Pakistan? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.