Virgin Atlantic has expanded its partnership with Vistara and is targeting passenger feed from tier-II cities to drive growth on India-London routes. The UK carrier will resume its London-Mumbai service in October, six months after its partner Jet Airways shut operations.
Virgin Atlantic flew to Mumbai between 2005 and 2009 and again from 2012-2015 before withdrawing from the route. The airline's India office believes the carrier will be lucky this time, given the high demand and the void caused by Jet Airways' collapse.
"There is significant growth in the market. Demand on the Mumbai-London route has grown 23 per cent the Past five years. We offer a strong service element and are confident of success," said David Hodges, Virgin Atlantic's country manager for India. The airline currently has a daily service between London-Delhi.
It has also expanded its interline agreement with Vistara ahead of Mumbai service launch. An interline agreement is a commercial arrangement between two airlines which allows them to sell on each others' network. The expanded agreement covers Vistara's domestic flights from Mumbai and will enable Virgin Atlantic to get passenger feed from other cities in India. He added the airline was also exploring partnerships with other Indian airlines.
Hodges said the airline is also focusing on sales efforts in cities including Pune and Ahmedabad which are large markets for airlines. To attract business travellers it will be offering free limousine service between Mumbai and Pune. "We are targeting high yield traffic. Our ambition is to grow in India," he said.
Jet Airways operated four daily services between India and London (three from Mumbai and one from Delhi) and briefly a service between Mumbai-Manchester. Jet had 57 per cent and 22 per cent capacity share on Mumbai-London and Delhi-London routes respectively, according to aviation consultancy CAPA. Now Virgin Atlantic and rival British Airways are trying to fill up the void caused by the closure of Jet.
British Airways has added four services between London-Mumbai in summer schedule increasing its weekly frequencies to 18. In next March it will make it a daily service increasing services to 21 per week. As a result British Airways weekly schedule to India will increase from 49 to 56 flights next March.
Moran Birger, British Airways head of sales for Asia Pacific & Middle East said " With these additional flights we will be offering a convenient choice of three flights a day from Mumbai to connect our worldwide network of over 200 destinations."