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Virgin Atlantic Plans 84 New Routes With Heathrow Slots Windfall

Christopher Jasper
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Virgin Atlantic Plans 84 New Routes With Heathrow Slots Windfall

(Bloomberg) -- Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. will add 84 destinations including Beijing, Buenos Aires and Sydney if the expansion of London’s Heathrow airport is accompanied by a shakeup in the way operating slots are allocated.

The airline would like to serve 35 new long-haul destinations from Europe’s busiest hub, on top of the 19 it offers today, plus 37 cities in continental Europe and 12 domestic routes, it said in a statement Wednesday.

Virgin Atlantic is pushing a slot model that would effectively create a second U.K. flag carrier to rival British Airways. While a 16 billion-pound ($20 billion) extra runway at Heathrow won’t open until 2026, the slot regime is undergoing a review that could determine the allocation system for years to come.

“The third runway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the status quo,” Chief Executive Officer Shai Weiss said in the release, adding that Virgin’s proposals would help the government meet objectives for increased competition and improved domestic and international connectivity.

Virgin, founded by billionaire Richard Branson and 49% owned by U.S. ally Delta Air Lines Inc., has already boosted its Heathrow slot holding through the purchase of small regional carrier Flybe Group Plc, bought this year for just 2.2 million pounds.

BA and its sister carriers at IAG SA currently control about 55% of Heathrow takeoff and landing positions, with no other airline holding more than 5%, Virgin says. New slots are generally allocated in line with existing holdings.

The carrier’s long-haul wish list also features destinations including Auckland, Calgary, Jakarta, Lima, Mexico City, Nairobi, TokyoEuropean cities would include Helsinki, Berlin, Paris and Madrid, with domestic locations spanning Newquay to Inverness

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Jasper in London at cjasper@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net, Andrew Noël, John Bowker

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