I wrote on Friday that Virgin Atlantic was expected to launch Austin – London Heathrow as its new U.S. route. Virgin is part of the joint venture across the Atlantic with Delta and Air France KLM. This is now confirmed, and credit to SPD travels who was first with the news on Twitter.
Virgin Atlantic to launch Austin this summer. VS231/232. Schedule to follow soon
— SPD travels 🚄✈️🌉 (@SPD_travels) January 6, 2022
Starting May 25, 2022 Virgin Atlantic will operate with a Boeing 787-9 4 days a week,
- London Heathrow – Austin, 11:35 a.m. – 4:05 p.m., VS231 (Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun)
Austin – London Heathrow, 6:05 p.m. – 9:00 a.m.+1, VS232 ((Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun)
For years Austin has been one of the fastest-growing aviation markets in the country, tracking the city’s growth more generally. This growth has continued – Austin isn’t just UT Austin and Dell Computers, it’s Google, Facebook, Apple, and Tesla now. It’s Oracle, Facebook, Indeed, Amazon, VRBO and eBay. Here’s what the Austin hype is all about.
We’ve seen huge growth in the past several years and that’s returning during the pandemic.
- American Airlines launched more than two dozen new routes quadrupling the destinations they serve from the city.
- KLM was supposed to launch Amsterdam service in spring 2020. That was pushed off, but this begins in March with a Boeing 787.
- Lufthansa will re-start its Frankfurt flight in March as well
- Allegiant now operates a base in Austin
The British Airways London route was originally made possible as an experiment with the smaller Boeing 787. British Airways even flew a Boeing 747 Austin – London when Norwegian introduced London Gatwick service to the city. With Norwegian out of all transatlantic markets, there’s no longer a competitor between Austin and London so Virgin entering the market makes some sense. BA will fly its Airbus A350 to Austin.
Austin is one of only two focus cities Delta decided to keep, and between KLM and Virgin Atlantic the large, gorgeous Delta SkyClub opened in 2019 may finally get used in a meaningful way.
Unfortunately Virgin’s Boeing 787s have their old business class seats, not competitive with the new seats BA offers on the route and Virgin’s flight isn’t daily the way BA’s is. Virgin also lacks the connectivity at London Heathrow, so the route would need to survive on local traffic between the two cities – and without American’s bigger presence in the corporate space that supports the British Airways flight. In other words, they are at a competitive disadvantage relative to British Airways flying this route. able to appeal to the limited number of Delta loyalists flying to London and those they can attract with lower fares.