FIVE years ago, Virgin Atlantic launched its service from London to Dubai in the UAE and this route has gone on to become a major success for the UK-based airline.
Speaking to TTN, Jon Harding, general manager, international and distribution, for Virgin Atlantic, says: “We are in an extremely tough economic climate in Europe at the moment, with low consumer confidence on one hand and high fuel prices on the other. Amidst all that, Dubai remains our bright spot.”
Virgin Atlantic’s 2010-2011 results showed revenues on its London-Dubai route increased 12 per cent year-on-year, fuelled by growing demand and Harding expects this growth to continue.
“Our positioning in this part of the world is extremely strong and we hope to see more of the same next year. We’re seeing a steady increase in demand for our Upper Class and Premium Economy cabins,” he points out. “We have tough competition but hope to continue to do well for ourselves. On an annualised basis, we are at 75 per cent for load factors, and during peak seasons that goes up to 80-90 per cent, which in terms of our overall network is pretty good.”
Harding says that the airline will continue to look at opportunities to expand its network in the region. “However, the focus is on our route to Dubai and in the longer term too, this is the route that we are keen to grow, particularly when we take delivery of our new aircraft,” he says.
Virgin Atlantic will take delivery of five new A330s next year and is also expected to take delivery of the much delayed 18 787s in 2014. With London in the spotlight with the upcoming Olympics, Harding is confident that demand to London will continue to remain strong as ever.
“The Olympic Games is the single biggest global event and is a huge advert of the UK and a massive opportunity for all of us in the travel and tourism industry. There is a huge amount of destination marketing that is taking place. We are very keen on promoting an image of contemporary Britain, more than just Trafalgar Square or the changing of the guards. Also, there is a huge opportunity for us to tap both out traditional markets like Japan and newer markets like Kenya,” he says.
On board, Virgin Atlantic recently introduced a new dining service in Economy Class as part of a £100 million ($157 million) investment. The service includes a new menu, welcome cocktail and a smaller soft-touch, non-slip snack tray.
The soft-touch tray has allowed to airline to remove the paper tray liner, while the menu is printed on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-approved, part recycled card. The tray is 46 per cent more greenhouse-gas efficient over its life cycle than the tray it replaces. With these changes, Virgin Atlantic will save 132 kg per aircraft, which is a four per cent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2), the same amount used to produce 167,000 of its stylish new Economy Class glassware.
Virgin Atlantic will launch its service to Vancouver in May next year.