SO rude question first: does Virgin Atlantic expect its new Dubai-London service to spark a price war? The service begins March 27, and already, its cheeky ad campaign has spoofed Emirates Airline’s Keep Discovering tagline, so is price next?
Says the airline’s regional manager Andrew Fyfe, “I’ll reply like Sir Richard Branson did last November: when Virgin enters a market, fares do tend to come down. Since January, economy fares to London are at around Dh2,300, compared to last year’s pre-June levels of Dh3,000. For now, Virgin is following published fares and watching as developments progress.”
The Dubai-London service clearly hopes to address the problem of inadequate supply on one of the region’s busiest routes. The connection starts thrice weekly and will go daily from June. It will be cross-promoted with Virgin Nigeria’s Lagos-Dubai services which start thrice a week on May 2.
So how will Virgin help the agent bring in the customer? “We’ve just come in, so we will follow the lead of the national carriers. Although some airlines have reduced commissions to zero, we offer the standard seven per cent. But we are looking at ways to incentivise agents.”
As for the consumer, Fyfe says the brand isn’t unknown in the market. (As if to prove his point, when we’re setting up a photograph later, a customer walks in, wanting to book a ticket.) Especially in the airline’s Upper Class, he says, there’s a lot on offer, including the famously unconventional seat layout, on-board bar and beauty therapist.
Over time, Fyfe expects to see Dubai evolving into a city break: “If the flight time on my last trip out is anything to go by: five hours 55 minutes.”
What about that ad campaign? “Virgin is a cheeky brand, we want to bring a bit of fun back into our lives. We’re zero threat to someone as big as Emirates, we’re just biting at their ankles.”