Virgin Atlantic will axe its ‘Little Red’ arm next year, bringing to an end the airline’s soirée into the UK domestic market.
Its daily services from London Heathrow to Manchester will run until March 2015, while flights from Heathrow to both Edinburgh and Aberdeen will be axed in September 2015 when the airline takes its final flight.
Launched in March 2013, Little Red went after British Airways’ monopoly on key UK domestic routes, giving travellers an alternative to the flag carrier while also opening up more destinations for those arriving from or departing on Virgin Atlantic’s international flights.
Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger attributed the shutdown to “the totally inadequate number of slots made available by the European Commission”, which didn’t allow Little Red to come “close to BA’s network position.”
“The time lag between the takeover of BMI and our entering the market also meant Little Red initially faced an uphill battle to win recognition and convert customers to its services.”
The airline also shared that “high levels of connections onto Virgin Atlantic’s long haul network have always been important to the success of Little Red”, but that the demand on Little Red “has been predominantly from point to point customers rather than connecting traffic.”
While Qantas Frequent Flyer members can earn points and status credits with British Airways, Little Red enabled Virgin Australia Velocity members to do likewise on its flights – an extension from the ‘earn and burn’ arrangements with Virgin Atlantic mainline.
Virgin Atlantic President Richard Branson said that the airline was offered “a meagre package of slots with a number of constraints on how to use them, and we decided to lease a few planes on a short term basis to give it our best shot.
“The odds were stacked against us and sadly we just couldn’t attract enough corporate business on these routes,” he added.
Little Red’s existing cabin crew members will be offered similar positions with Virgin Atlantic mainline when operations cease next year.
Virgin Atlantic’s existing flights from Manchester to Las Vegas, Orlando and Barbados are unaffected, as are planned flights from Manchester to Atlanta next year and the airline’s seasonal flights from Glasgow to Orlando, plus a new route between Glasgow and Las Vegas.
Members of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will soon enjoy as-yet-undefined “special loyalty benefits” when flying with Little Red, with increased earning rates on flights and a “significant” reduction in the number of Flying Club miles needed to redeem for a Little Red flight.
The wind-up of Little Red follows a major review of Virgin Atlantic’s wider network, which last month saw flights to Japan, India, Canada and South Africa face the axe after flights between Sydney and Hong Kong were terminated in May.
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