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#965240 by Pete
06 Jul 2022, 09:05
From this morning's press release:

Virgin Atlantic continues its transatlantic expansion with a new direct route from London Heathrow to Tampa, launching 3rd November 2022, further cementing the airline’s commitment to its Florida heartland.

The new year-round Florida service will initially fly four times a week before increasing to daily from 28th November, complementing the airline’s up to four daily flying to Orlando and double daily flying to Miami. This latest addition follows the airline’s launch of direct flights between London and Austin, Texas in May 2022.

Offering more than 190,000 seats each year, Virgin Atlantic will be the only airline to directly connect the Tampa Bay region with London’s hub airport, London Heathrow. The new service will offer easy, seamless connections for customers travelling to and from Virgin Atlantic's rest of world destinations and our partners’ networks via London Heathrow.

A booming city, Tampa has seen a 4.2% growth in population between 2018 and 2021 and has a catchment area of five million throughout the Tampa Bay and St Pete and Clearwater area. Key industries based in the region include financial services, healthcare and a burgeoning technology sector. The region is also the third fastest growing US metro area for entrepreneurs in 2021.

Tampa, Florida’s third largest city is famed for its history and culture as well as being the home of the world famous Superbowl winners, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and ice hockey legends, the Tampa Bay Lightning. With year-round beautiful weather and stunning Gulf Coast beaches, Tampa is the perfect gateway to Florida’s top attractions with the popular theme parks of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Busch Gardens all within easy reach. To capitalise on the increasing leisure tourism, Virgin Atlantic Holidays will be boosting its holiday portfolio throughout the region offering a range of hotels and fly drive holidays.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic commented: “We are delighted to continue our expansion in the US with this new daily service to Tampa, Florida offering even more choice for customers on both sides of the Atlantic to connect between the US and the UK.

“Florida is very much a firm favourite for our customers ever since our first flight to Miami back in 1986. With the popular theme parks and the stunning beaches of St Pete and Clearwater within easy reach, we know it’s an area our customers will love to explore.”

“The region has a booming economy with high profile businesses moving to the area and many budding entrepreneurs registering start ups in the city. We very much look forward to forging new relationships within the Tampa Bay community and cannot wait to welcome customers, both existing and new onboard, flying them safely to explore this exciting region.”

Joe Lopano, Chief Executive Officer at Tampa International Airport commented: “We at Tampa International Airport are thrilled to offer our first-ever nonstop route to Heathrow and launch this new partnership with Virgin Atlantic. Not only does this create another Tampa-London option for our leisure travellers, but there’s a huge upside for our thriving business community to now have a direct connection to the world’s premier business airport. We expect this to be a popular route during what we know will be a very busy winter travel season at TPA.”

"Expanding flight options and exposure to destinations throughout Florida is vital to maintaining and strengthening the UK's position as our No. 1 market for overseas visitation," said VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young. "This new Virgin Atlantic service will provide more opportunities for UK travellers to experience the vibrant and growing city of Tampa, which offers a dynamic food scene, sports, arts and culture and much more."

As Virgin Atlantic continues to work towards its vision of becoming the most loved travel company, the airline is focussed on serving the destinations we know our customers love to visit whilst continually innovating for its customers. New Caribbean services to St Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas and St Lucia in 2021 as well as new flying from Edinburgh to Orlando launched this spring, and new flying to Austin took to the skies in May 2022. Later this year, Virgin Atlantic will be the first UK airline to receive the A330neo aircraft which not only boasts a step change to its Upper Class Suite and social space for customers but will help transform the fleet into one of the quietest and most fuel efficient in the sky. During 2022, the airline will take delivery of three A330neo aircraft, with up to 13 further aircraft to follow until 2026.

Flights are on sale from Wednesday 13th July 2022 at www.virginatlantic.com with return Economy fares starting from £436 per person.
#965242 by VS075
06 Jul 2022, 12:43
Good to see TPA added to the list. Having spent a bit of time holidaying in the Tampa Bay area in the past and given its proximity to the parks of Orlando, I reckon it's a route that will do very well. It's also an opportunity for Virgin Holidays to expand its multi-destination fly-drive offerings by allowing people to fly into MCO and out of TPA (and vice versa) and will be more attractive than a change somewhere.

It would be nice if there was a MAN-TPA option in the future. Until that happens and if/when we return, a max. 2hr drive along the I-4 to/from MCO will be preferable to a 3-4hr drive along motorways to my part of NW England.
#965243 by Kraken
06 Jul 2022, 12:46
This new route has to be one of the worst kept secrets - like anything, it had already been leaked online. I can see the Tampa route doing well - I know on some of the Florida theme park forums that Tampa is highly rated on the speed of clearing immigration compared to Orlando. We've all seen the queues at Orlando when multiple international departures all arrive together. If people are heading for the Disney resort area you could be there in an hours drive from Tampa - when you'd possibly still be stuck in an immigration queue at Orlando.

David [above] makes a valid point about EDI to MCO - but you can only assume that Virgin don't see it as an attractive option for year-round service. I know when the ex-Scotland MCO flight was from GLA, the fares for the Glasgow departures commanded a premium over the Manchester departures. (So much so, an ex-colleague who lives near Glasgow refused to do the Glasgow flights - it was cheaper for them to travel from Manchester, even with the cost of fuel, airport parking & an overnight hotel at Manchester airport).
#965244 by mitchja
06 Jul 2022, 13:09
I believe this has all come about because of the new LHR slots VS obtained from the Aeroflot LHR slot removal sanctions.

VS got 7 slot pairs out of this. JetBlue got some as well hence why their TATL LHR service is now permanent. Several other airlines also benefited from this.

If VS don’t use these slots they will loose them and LHR slots are like gold dust. Apparently this is the first time in many many years that VS have managed to obtain this many new LHR slots in one go.
#965247 by CommanderB
06 Jul 2022, 13:49
mitchja wrote:I believe this has all come about because of the new LHR slots VS obtained from the Aeroflot LHR slot removal sanctions.

VS got 7 slot pairs out of this. JetBlue got some as well hence why their TATL LHR service is now permanent. Several other airlines also benefited from this.

If VS don’t use these slots they will loose them and LHR slots are like gold dust. Apparently this is the first time in many many years that VS have managed to obtain this many new LHR slots in one go.


Ahhhhh I totally missed the whole sanctions thing. That makes sense.

But I still think there are better routes than the ones the DL corporate overlords are choosing.

:D
#965248 by OCdreamin
06 Jul 2022, 15:19
David wrote:Its great to see VS opening new routes but it would be nice if they expanded some of the existing ones ie EDI to MCO to all year round .

David


Unfortunately, in terms of long-haul routes, the U.K. has London Airways (BA) & London Airways Lite (VS).

Which each fresh announcement; Austin, Tampa etc Virgin demonstrate their priority every time will be to protect and grow their London slots, regardless of profitability of existing, previously operated or potential routes from EDI or MAN. There are many routes which would make sense commercially, and save passengers (from ‘the north’) from inconvenient and time-consuming connections through LHR or US gateway.
But neither of our flag carriers is interested. Hacked off? Bitter? You bet I am. Especially with VS.
#965251 by Kraken
06 Jul 2022, 16:54
candy wrote:Wonder how long till there is cancellations ,cut services and passengers moved to the orlando flights?


Given that the Tampa flight will be going from Heathrow, I can see VS doing quite well on the Tampa route. If they do start to cancel flights they will have to re-use the Heathrow slots on other routes due to the "use it 80% of the time or lose it" rule on Heathrow slots.

It will be interesting to see how BA respond given that their Tampa flight is a Gatwick departure. I can't think that they will want VS hoovering up all the J/W class passengers on their flight from Heathrow.
#965252 by FlyerTalkUserName
06 Jul 2022, 17:41
Kraken wrote:
candy wrote:Wonder how long till there is cancellations ,cut services and passengers moved to the orlando flights?


Given that the Tampa flight will be going from Heathrow, I can see VS doing quite well on the Tampa route. If they do start to cancel flights they will have to re-use the Heathrow slots on other routes due to the "use it 80% of the time or lose it" rule on Heathrow slots.

It will be interesting to see how BA respond given that their Tampa flight is a Gatwick departure. I can't think that they will want VS hoovering up all the J/W class passengers on their flight from Heathrow.


Yes, in an ideal scenario BA responds by switching to LHR and both still do well. Has the added benefit of getting the old BA 777’s off the route.
#965256 by VS075
07 Jul 2022, 08:59
Kraken wrote:
candy wrote:Wonder how long till there is cancellations ,cut services and passengers moved to the orlando flights?


Given that the Tampa flight will be going from Heathrow, I can see VS doing quite well on the Tampa route. If they do start to cancel flights they will have to re-use the Heathrow slots on other routes due to the "use it 80% of the time or lose it" rule on Heathrow slots.

It will be interesting to see how BA respond given that their Tampa flight is a Gatwick departure. I can't think that they will want VS hoovering up all the J/W class passengers on their flight from Heathrow.


Just my opinion, but with the extra LHR slots VS have acquired I sense this means there will be no return to LGW anytime soon. There should theoretically be plenty of slots available to continue to consolidate their existing routes out of LHR plus space for growth as demonstrated with AUS and now TPA, as well as the seasonal CPT and UVF.

I too am curious to see how BA respond as I'm sure they would also love to consolidate everything out of LHR if they had the chance to do so despite having to split their ops between T3 and T5. If anything, BA has one advantage out of LHR in having a very strong domestic/short-haul network to feed their flights with on top of London-originating passengers.
#965443 by Fuzzy14
22 Jul 2022, 23:15
I missed this news because, ironically, I was in Tampa. I've used the BA service to Tampa (there's a trip report coming) since 2016 and it's my preferred Florida airport, since they sorted the car hire building in 2018 it really is such a nice and easy airport. The main benefit is many people don't bother to check when booking their holidays to Orlando so it's nice and cheap. Keep an eye on availability of reward seats.
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