Virgin Atlantic has revealed plans to target capacity increases to the green list destinations that it serves. The increase in capacity will see the airline’s Airbus A350 serving Barbados for the first time. The airline is targeting these destinations as passengers aren’t required to quarantine upon return to England.
UK airlines have been hit relatively hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even today, the UK government’s travel restrictions are on the stricter end of the scale requiring most passengers to quarantine despite many nations having far lower COVID-19 rates than England. This has created a delicate balancing act for airlines, with demand shifting depending on the latest green list.
Increasing capacity by 300%
Virgin Atlantic is set to increase its capacity to Caribbean islands by almost 300%. The airline has seen a surge in demand since the UK government added Antigua, Barbados, and Grenada to its green list.
The airline is bringing forward the resumption of some routes, while frequencies will be increases on others. From July 15th, the airline will up its Antigua frequency to thrice weekly. Meanwhile, from July 25th, the airline will operate a daily rotation to Barbados. Grenada is also set to join the network a month earlier than planned when twice-weekly flights commence on July 16th.
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Sending the A350 to Barbados
As mentioned, the airline plans to send its Airbus A350-1000 to Barbados on five of its seven weekly services from the start of next month. The aircraft is the airline’s flagship aircraft following the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet last year. With 335 seats, the aircraft carries 30% more passengers than the Boeing 787, meaning that capacity can be increased even further than just adding additional flights.
The aircraft’s schedule shows just how much the picture has changed in the past two and a half months. In late April, Simple Flying reported that the airline’s first flight with IATA Travel Pass, VS131 to Barbados, had a load factor of just 27% with 70 passengers onboard.
The Boeing 787 will still fly to Barbados on two of the airline’s seven weekly rotations. At the same time, flights from Manchester to Barbados will operate three times a week from August 7th, when Virgin Atlantic resumes flights from Manchester.
The only slight spanner in the works is that the UK Government has added Antigua, Barbados, and Grenada to its green watchlist since June 30th. This means that the destination is at risk of going back onto the amber list at the next review. Later today, the UK Government is expected to introduce guidance allowing quarantine free travel from amber list countries for fully vaccinated individuals.
Commenting on the capacity increase, Juha Jarvinen, CCO at Virgin Atlantic, said,
“There’s long been pent up demand to travel so we’re excited that we can finally whisk our customers away for a much-needed sunny break, with even more available flight options, allowing them to enjoy the stunning beaches, warm climate and welcoming hospitality that the Caribbean has buckets of.”
What do you make of Virgin Atlantic’s capacity increase? Will demand stick around? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!