Competition for flights between India and the United Kingdom just increased, with two airlines adding new services.

Virgin Atlantic launching India flights from Manchester

Traditionally heavily reliant on the US market, Virgin Atlantic is having to rethink its strategic focus, given that transatlantic travel remains at rock bottom levels.

With that in mind, the airline has announced that it will launch new flights to India from Manchester, flying to both Delhi and Mumbai (the airline already flies to both cities from London Heathrow).

Virgin Atlantic announced a Manchester-Delhi service back in February, then cancelled it in May. Five months is obviously a long time in the aviation business and, for now at least, the new route is back on.

Virgin Atlantic’s new services will open up over 130,000 seats between Manchester and India and are especially aimed at those visiting friends and relatives. With over 16 million Indians living outside of their country, including 500,000 living across the north of England, India has the world’s largest diaspora.

As Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic, explains:

“India boasts the largest foreign-born population in the UK and we’re anticipating that post Covid-19, the demand to travel home to visit loved ones will increase. Following the relaunch of services from Heathrow to Mumbai and Delhi in September 2020, these new services from Manchester represent our continued investment in India. Both Mumbai and Delhi are popular year-round destinations, and we look forward to welcoming travellers from the North and Midlands onboard as demand for leisure and business travel gradually increases to the region.”

Virgin Atlantic will fly three times a week from Manchester to Mumbai, beginning in December, and twice weekly to Delhi starting in January. Flights go on sale on October 20 and will be operated by Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

Click here to read our review of Virgin’s 787 business class product, called “Upper Class”.

Vistara adds flights from Delhi to London Heathrow

Indian airline Vistara has revealed its own plans to ramp up service to the UK, adding additional flights between Delhi and London Heathrow during the winter season.

Vistara, a joint venture between Tata group and Singapore Airlines, is increasing frequency from the current four times weekly flights to five times weekly flights as of November 21, 2020. This will increase to a daily service on December 1, 2020.

Flights have also been retimed, effective October 25, 2020, with westbound flight UK017 departing Delhi at 1.45pm and touching down in London at 5.45pm the same day. The return flight, UK018, will depart London at 8.50pm and arrive in Delhi at 10.25am the following day.

“The increase in frequency demonstrates our success on the Delhi-London route, its importance in our network, and the steady demand for a world-class, full-service carrier from India,” said Vinod Kannan, chief commercial officer at Vistara.

“It also brings to our customers more choice and flexibility with their travel plans in these unusual times, and the retiming of flights further enables convenient connections to and from several cities across India.”

Vistara’s Delhi-London route will continue to be serviced by its brand-new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, featuring three cabins, onboard WiFi and specially-curated meals. The airline’s flights to London are currently operated under the bilateral ‘transport bubble’ agreed between India and the UK.

Summing up

The collapse in demand for transatlantic travel means Virgin Atlantic is looking elsewhere to full its planes. For now, at least, India looks attractive and Virgin is adding flights to both Delhi and Mumbai from Manchester.

Vistara is also increasing flights between the UK and India, adding additional flights on its Delhi-London Heathrow service.

There’s going to be fierce competition on flights between the two countries, considering British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air India, Vistara and SpiceJet will all offer direct service.

Who would you rather fly to London or Manchester with?