Virgin Atlantic is having a tough time of it at the moment, and its plans to start a new service to India have now been written off.

Virgin Atlantic won’t fly from Manchester to Delhi

The airline has just confirmed to us that it won’t be launching its Manchester-Delhi service, planned to begin in October. A spokesman told us:

“We have taken the difficult decision to withdraw our Manchester to Delhi route, which was due to launch on October 26. We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and reassure customers that they will still be able to fly to Delhi and Mumbai year-round from London Heathrow. For customers impacted by these changes, there’s no need to contact us right now, we’ll be in touch with more information on what these changes mean and to discuss your options, including rebooking on flights from London Heathrow or with our partners where possible.”

Virgin Atlantic said it made the decision as part of plans to “reshape and resize” its business.

The airline announced last week that it will leave London Gatwick airport altogether, reduce its workforce by 3,150 people and retire its seven Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

Although it expects to "steadily increase" flights in the second half of this year, before a "further, gradual recovery" in 2021, Virgin Atlantic thinks it may take as long as three years for demand to recover to pre-crisis levels.

Asked if coronavirus might prompt any other changes to Virgin Atlantic’s Indian services, the spokesman said:

“Regarding 2020, we’re continually reviewing our flying programme on a day by day basis and as countries start to lift travel restrictions and demand for travel begins to return, it is expected that Virgin Atlantic will steadily increase passenger flying in the second half of the year. However, from summer 2021 we intend to fly twice daily to Delhi from LHR and daily from Mumbai.”

Summer 2021 flying programme published

The slimmed-down Virgin Atlantic has published its flying programme for summer 2021, with most services operating from London Heathrow (plus a handful from Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast).

Effective March 28, 2021, Virgin intends to fly to 24 global destinations with its fleet of wide-body, twin-engine aircraft comprising of A330-300s, 787-9s, A350-1000s, as well as A330-200s before they retire in early 2022 (as planned).

Flights to Tel Aviv from London will be increased to double daily, while the Caribbean and Orlando flights (which used to run from Gatwick) will transfer to Heathrow.

Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic, said:

“As the covid-19 crisis stabilises and demand gradually returns, we are looking forward to welcoming our customers back and flying them safely to their favourite destinations. We have taken the opportunity to pause, reflect and reshape our 2021 flying programme looking at efficiencies in our fleet and connectivity across our network, to ensure it is fit for the future, flying to the destinations we know our customers love to fly.”

Summing up

Virgin Atlantic is in trouble, and Sir Richard Branson has had to sell shares worth USD 500 million in his Virgin Galactic space business to raise funds for his struggling airline (among other businesses).

It’s therefore not surprising to see the planned Manchester-Delhi flights fall by the wayside.

What do you make of Virgin Atlantic’s survival plan?