Virgin Atlantic eyeing second route to Dubai

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By Claire Ferris-Lay  www.arabianbusiness.com

London-based Virgin Atlantic will launch a second frequency to Dubai following the first delivery of its long awaited Dreamliner aircraft, the carrier’s CCO said Thursday

Virgin AtlanticThe carrier, which is 51 percent owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, said it had no plans to expand its only Middle East route outside of Dubai.

“We think absolutely that Dubai in the fullness of time will benefit from a second frequency,” Julie Southern told Arabian Business.

“The critical thing there will be getting the right size of aircraft and the 787s…will be key for us in terms of opening up some of those additional frequencies,” she said.

Virgin Atlantic has 20 of the delayed Boeing 787s on order, the first of which will start being delivered in 2014.

The carrier, the second biggest long-haul airline at London’s Heathrow Airport, said Dubai remained an important destination but ruled out further expansion in the region.

“If you look at the London end of the route versus the Dubai end of the route, we originate about 25 percent of our revenue of out of Dubai and 75 percent from the UK and that’s not true on all of the routes. This end of the market remains really important to us,” said Southern.

“This [Dubai] is such a central hub for the Gulf region that I think it’s mostly likely that if we do anything, it will be an additional frequency to serve this market rather than go to somewhere relatively close by and start a brand new route,” she said.

Virgin Atlantic expects to grow its business by seven percent this year and by 5-8 percent next year, said Southern.

“You’ll see that being a mix of brand new places and additional services on existing destinations,” she said.

The airline this month managed to avert the first strike in its 27-year history after it managed to agree a deal with a union representing its pilots.

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