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#947291 by Dobbo
01 Dec 2018, 00:18
Hi All

The news of the past few days opens up the playbook of opportunities for VS and MAN, with the following passages jumping out to me from the press release:

    "Deliver more choice to customers by linking UK regions and Ireland to Virgin Atlantic’s extensive long-haul network through improved connectivity at Manchester Airport and London Heathrow
    Provide a strong foundation to secure the long-term future of Flybe, its customers and its people by leveraging the combined commercial, operational and functional expertise and scale of Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group
    Utilise the strength of the Virgin Atlantic brand, and the offer of an enhanced customer experience in keeping with Virgin Atlantic’s heritage
    Provide the Combined Group with an enhanced presence at Manchester Airport , London Heathrow Airport, with the potential to grow further in London Southend Airport"


I'll share my thoughts below using the same headings as the first post.

However, my overarching point is that I don't expect anything to change overnight, it will take time to put the building blocks in place, but the pace of growth should pick up.

Existing Route Network

Clearly this should permit VS to develop the base further, faster and address the major issues which are seasonality and lack of frequency (assuming the fleet issues are resolved).

I'd expect the network to be developed into a series of departure waves, which in my book requires higher frequencies and year round services. At least daily to JFK, ATL, MCO, LAS, LAX, BOS and higher frequency to the likes of BGI and any new routes to be opened (see below).


New Routes?

I think this offers the chance to open new and previously operated routes.

SFO should be in the thinking, as well as SEA, MIA and DEL. Id not be surprised to see JNB and perhaps BKK appear (even if some are seasonal) as well as some of the beach routes currently / also flown from LGW.

Short Haul?

The optimisation of the legacy BE network to support MAN will be interesting.

It should be relatively easy to understand the objective for the UK, as you would imagine the objective should be to connect MAN to each of the second / third / fourth tier UK regionals that can sensibly be plugged into the network. I don't think too much needs to change. I'd expect 4 - 5 daily frequencies to the likes of GLA, EDI, ABZ, INV, NCL, STN, SEN, NWI, NQY, EXE, SOU, as well as the major airports on the island or Ireland and the channel islands and the IoM.

Ideally you'd want the hub banks at MAN to have tight turnarounds, so that if they decide to cut (by way of example) SOU-NCL the same journey can be made SOU-MAN-NCL with a tight turnaround at MAN with minimal time penalty.

The extent to which they seek to gain a foothold in Europe is something I don't know much about. You'd expect they'd look to connect MAN to secondary French, Italian, German, Iberian and Scandinavian airports with little direct long haul to compete with IAG and LH Group (not AF/KL so much).

Fleet

The obvious question is what to do with the BE legacy fleet. DL have an order for A220, perhaps some of these will make their way to the UK?

Infrastructure at MAN

Its difficult to see how a Clubhouse isn't provided, and I expect the legacy BE operation to move to Terminal 2 with VS. The question is when these things happen.

I wonder whether VS might want a dedicated pier at MAN (or something similar) to improve the transfer proves and get their short and long haul aircraft in close proximity. I also wonder if they might support USPC for additional advantage and to compete with DUB.

Potentially exciting times ahead - andy thoughts welcome!
Last edited by Dobbo on 12 Jan 2019, 23:31, edited 1 time in total.
#947294 by SlimpyJones
01 Dec 2018, 09:05
Welcome to the forum Dobbo, cracking first post :-D Are you the same Dobbo who posts on a.net? If so I have read your posts in the Manchester thread there with interest too.

I agree with your assessment of the routes, JFK in particular seems to be hugely promising at the moment. After AA pulled out last year VS now have a strong hold on the business travellers wanting a direct connection to NYC with only United (to EWR) left for competition. On the leisure traveller front Thomas Cook are the main competition, whom offer a second daily service on a handful of days of the week, albeit on A332s, even in the winter months. Plus the odd Jet2 flight which I doubt VS are concerned about.

If this winter season can prove fruitful I do hope that VS will commit to a daily service throughout next year.

On BOS. I think the expansion in MAN, coupled with the extra daily service from LHR and the new DL seasonal route from EDI is down to Delta's goals to have Boston as a hub, and scoop up some of BA's feed from the regions to their fortress LHR. I think there is also a side goal of increasing their presence in the UK's secondary airports to squash any attempt from Boston rival JetBlue to set up a service there. Anyway, I'm going off point.

VS will no doubt have been delighted by the news that Thomas Cook bowed out of the MAN-BOS market. VS were getting somewhat pummeled in the load factor department, so perhaps there will be an improvement now that they are the only player in the market. It is also reportedly another handy connector to MCO.

Perhaps the opposite is now the case for SFO where VS have now left Thomas Cook to be the sole carrier. It was a shame to see SFO get the chop after it was so heavily hyped. Loads seemed to be quite positive from what I heard. LAX though is a reasonable alternative and again Thomas Cook are the only competition.

Out of all of these where VS compete with Thomas Cook they still have the advantage, the business traveller wanting a business class seat will turn to VS.

ATL I don't know a great deal about other than it's advantage as a Delta hub to feed service to and from Orlando and the US Midwest.

If I remember right, there was a Delta DTW-MAN route on the cards which was set to be announced, but pulled in the wake of the Brexit vote. I'm not convinced at the moment that this route is really needed as there is nowhere that DTW can connect people to that ATL and JFK cannot.

On the Clubhouse front. There should be no doubt that a Clubhouse is in the works and given the state of construction at MAN it is likely that plans are being drawn up. VS have got a huge advantage here, a blank slate almost at Manchester where they can carve in their own premium service for their premium customers. A Clubhouse is inevitable, but it's scale and grandeur will be a key tell for just how committed VS are to Manchester in the long term. In my eyes they really need to push the boat out here and have something that will be on par with perhaps not LHR (yet), but JFK.
What other premium ground services should one expect at Manchester though? Some sort of drive through check-in like at LHR? A separate UC check-in? Again, VS have a massive opportunity here to really stamp their dominance especially with the airport redevelopment.

Exciting times ahead!
#947302 by gumshoe
01 Dec 2018, 11:22
An interesting analysis, thank you.

My view, though, is that MAN suffers from a major disadvantage that will forever frustrate its ambitions to be a serious alternative to LHR: no-one really wants to go there.

While it’s clearly found a market for Brits wanting to fly to the US without the hassle of connecting elsewhere, most Americans just want to go to London. And airlines need strong two-way traffic to sustain non-leisure routes.

So I fear MAN is doomed to forever remain predominantly a leisure airport and its expansion, however welcome, won’t change that. Any aspirations to become a major player for business travel will, I fear, come to nothing and I just can’t see enough demand for VS to justify routes like ATL and JFK going double daily.
#947306 by ColOrd
01 Dec 2018, 18:09
You say this Gumshoe but other than financial services, a lot of companies are looking at HQs further north to save money!

The BBC has brought a massive media and news scene to Manc and all of the supporting creative industry around it! That’s just one example, but I think there is much much greater potential for the Northern cities compared to London!
#947309 by Sealink
01 Dec 2018, 19:58
Manchester Airport needs to up it's game, the times I have flown from there it's been pretty horrendous.

I think VS and Flybe is a typical VS move, to appear interested but it just gets them media coverage.
#947312 by Dobbo
01 Dec 2018, 21:05
Hi All

Many thanks for your comments.

Hi SlimpyJones - yes, one and the same. The competition with Thomas Cook is an interesting dynamic. I'm slightly sceptical that the timing of VS dropping SFO and TCX dropping BOS was coincidental, but if it allows VS to build LAX and BOS before revisiting SFO then fair enough. Getting JFK and ATL on a daily A330 has to be the most immediate priority.


Hi gumshoe - you raise a very good point about MAN being a UK outbound market. Comparatively few americans view "England" as being anything other than "London". C'est la vie. However, the point about MAN being primarily a leisure airport is, in my view, an unmeritorious one. Even LHR, probably the most premium heavy of the major hubs, is overwhelmingly (70% per a government white paper) a leisure airport. For comparison, MAN is approximately 88 - 90% leisure.



Hopefully UK Government policy with supporting the Northern Powerhouse can assist MAN further, but it clearly has a long way to go if it is to be capable of supporting a major VS operation.
#947315 by jakedonson
01 Dec 2018, 23:02
I think the plan is to have all 747s based at Manchester while retiring them alongside a sub fleet (maybe 2) of A330-200s based there operating LAX, BOS routes and ATL when low demand. It is set to have an a350 fleet based there (as they're replacing the 747s) however it will probably be the last airport to receive them but one has to wonder what they will do when the 747s are gone... on routes such as MCO they often have two services a day so will they fly three maybe four flights a day there using a350s?

Clubhouse wise, they really should build one with the new Manchester airport expansion but will it be economically viable? They had about 110 upper class seats out of Manchester this year on their busiest day compared to Heathrow which has 724 upper class seats out of Heathrow tomorrow and that's based off their winter schedule (their quietest).
It would be cool to see a watered down lounge similar to the V-Room for premium economy passengers as there seems to be a lot of premium seats out of Manchester, although that would be very unlikely.

For new routes i wonder if they'd expand out east maybe Hong Kong as they currently advertise flights to Australia with Virgin Australia via Hong Kong from LHR and in addition Cathay Pacific have just upgrade their Manchester routes an a350-1000. I could see them adding Miami as i know a lot of people do fly drive around Florida from MCO so adding Miami could make this easier in addition to having easy access to cruise port and future Virgin Voyages ;-) .
#947323 by mitchja
02 Dec 2018, 10:42
Welcome both the V-Flyer :)

I personally don't believe the B744 is the right A/C for either of the MAN>ATL or MAN>JFK routes. There's no where near enough J capacity which was always full when the A333's where used on both those routes (31 seats down to just 14). As previously mentioned VS need to get the A333's back on those 2 routes.

Often over-looked and never seems to get much of a mention is VS are not just competing with Thomas Cook at MAN as there's also AA and UA at MAN too as AA still op their PHL>MAN and UA op their EWR>MAN service. No idea if those are daily or seasonal though?

I've also heard passing rumours that the VS MAN>JFK service could potentially also go more than daily once VS sort their fleet issues.

One thing that's not been mentioned is cargo capacity into and out of the North West of England. I suspect that is of significance to VS as well. There's a lot of industry within easy road access to MAN.
#947324 by Kraken
02 Dec 2018, 10:57
I would echo mitchja's comments above - namely that VS do not have the right aircraft / cabin mix on a lot of ex-MAN (& probably LGW) routes.

I've done uber-low season trips to MCO with about 150 pax onboard a 747 that seats 450 pax. Upper Class has always been full. There is a lot more Upper Class / Business Class demand on the MCO route in particular than VS cater for - look at the size of the Club World cabin that BA put on the route from Gatwick.

I do think the big game-changer for Virgin at MAN will be a Clubhouse for their premium passengers. Thankfully it seems that this is in the pipeline. Adios Escape lounge!
#947325 by mitchja
02 Dec 2018, 11:09
I can't remember if VS have actually come out and confirmed yet if a Clubhouse is coming to MAN? I'm sure I read somewhere they have?

If there is, I *guess* it will be like the LGW set-up with half being a VS Clubhouse and half being a new V Hols V:Room possibly?

Why VS J pax cannot use the current V:Room at MAN is beyond me? it's way way better than that sorry excuse that's the Escape lounge.
#947328 by gumshoe
02 Dec 2018, 11:32
Because the V:Room is a holiday lounge for families, it’s not meant to be a premium business lounge. Even if it’s better!
#947329 by Bobby_Ham
02 Dec 2018, 11:54
Cargo is very important to VS at MAN. Both JFK and ATL are reserved from general airfreight sale as they have permanent bookings, I believe for pharmaceuticals. So it's very rare that they leave with any space. Granted the rates might not be top dollar but it's a no brainer on their part for a regional route. Consequently freight is funnelled through MCO for the South East (including Atlanta) and trucked down to Heathrow for the northeast. Out west LAS is the gateway, with goods trucking to the west coast and as far as Denver to the East. Competition with Thomas Cook is as intense with freight as it with passengers, however VS don't help themselves with their very London centric call centre staff who always seem to quote LHR/LGW rates that are far more expensive than the TCX promo rates ex MAN, in the first instance.
#947340 by VS075
03 Dec 2018, 10:03
jakedonson wrote:I think the plan is to have all 747s based at Manchester while retiring them alongside a sub fleet (maybe 2) of A330-200s based there operating LAX, BOS routes and ATL when low demand. It is set to have an a350 fleet based there (as they're replacing the 747s) however it will probably be the last airport to receive them but one has to wonder what they will do when the 747s are gone... on routes such as MCO they often have two services a day so will they fly three maybe four flights a day there using a350s?

Clubhouse wise, they really should build one with the new Manchester airport expansion but will it be economically viable? They had about 110 upper class seats out of Manchester this year on their busiest day compared to Heathrow which has 724 upper class seats out of Heathrow tomorrow and that's based off their winter schedule (their quietest).
It would be cool to see a watered down lounge similar to the V-Room for premium economy passengers as there seems to be a lot of premium seats out of Manchester, although that would be very unlikely.

For new routes i wonder if they'd expand out east maybe Hong Kong as they currently advertise flights to Australia with Virgin Australia via Hong Kong from LHR and in addition Cathay Pacific have just upgrade their Manchester routes an a350-1000. I could see them adding Miami as i know a lot of people do fly drive around Florida from MCO so adding Miami could make this easier in addition to having easy access to cruise port and future Virgin Voyages ;-) .


IAD has what, one flight a day? If IAD can sustain a Clubhouse with that then MAN should surely be able to sustain a Clubhouse with multiple flights a day.

With HKG, I suspect that opportunity has been and gone given Cathay's expansion. PVG might be more lucrative if they can get air traffic rights, though I've noted the retraction of VS from certain eastern markets in recent years.

I can't speak for demand to the USA, but when you look at the amount of Business/First seats the likes of Emirates and Singapore offer from MAN I do wonder whether demand for these sort of seats aren't being met already going west or if there's just more demand for these seats going east?

mitchja wrote:Often over-looked and never seems to get much of a mention is VS are not just competing with Thomas Cook at MAN as there's also AA and UA at MAN too as AA still op their PHL>MAN and UA op their EWR>MAN service. No idea if those are daily or seasonal though?


Both are daily. I read the other day that next year United will use the 763 on the MAN-EWR route March-May and the 764 May-October instead of the current 757, so that will represent an overall increase of seats on the Manchester-New York route (10,000 extra seats was quoted over on a.net). Besides the odd substitution, it's probably the first time since Continental days a widebody is regularly used on the EWR route and might appeal to those who avoid narrowbody TATL flights at all costs. Combined with VS and Thomas Cook's capacity/frequency increases this year, it's more than made up for AA pulling MAN-JFK.
#947343 by jakedonson
03 Dec 2018, 18:14
IAD has what, one flight a day? If IAD can sustain a Clubhouse with that then MAN should surely be able to sustain a Clubhouse with multiple flights a day.


However, IAD is a business heavy route, the club house is probably needed for them to stay in the market and i do recall seeing a lot of gold flying club members use it when i was there. They have also opened it up as a priority pass lounge to give it an extra life line but overall as much as they should i really can't see them having a clubhouse a MAN.
#947351 by Dobbo
04 Dec 2018, 09:51
It is worth remembering that the only reason the beach fleet B744s are operating the likes of JFK and ATL from MAN is because of the B789 problems.

Previously, VS had (to my knowledge at least) three A333s (ie circa 100 UC seats per day) operating to JFK, ATL, SFO, BOS. I presume, when the B789 issues are resolved, we will see between 2-4 A333s move back up to MAN (in addition to the A332s and B744/A350).

VS will, I expect, plan a clubhouse at MAN around their expectations for the next decade or more. Based on “normal” conditions moving forward, we can expect comfortably over 100 UC seats per day ex MAN (not including possible access given to VS’s partners such as Jet). I’d say that is comfortably over the threshold for a clubhouse, based on the rest of the network.
#947353 by matt.hibb
04 Dec 2018, 16:00
I'm not convinced a clubhouse will ever appear at MAN. The biggest thing going against it for me is that they have got away with not having 1 for so long.
#947354 by SlimpyJones
04 Dec 2018, 16:24
matt.hibb wrote:I'm not convinced a clubhouse will ever appear at MAN. The biggest thing going against it for me is that they have got away with not having 1 for so long.


That's because there was no space in the terminal for one. Now that extensive redevelopment and expansion is going on at T2 there is much more real estate for a Clubhouse.
#947355 by jakedonson
04 Dec 2018, 17:43
Previously, VS had (to my knowledge at least) three A333s (ie circa 100 UC seats per day) operating to JFK, ATL, SFO, BOS. I presume, when the B789 issues are resolved, we will see between 2-4 A333s move back up to MAN (in addition to the A332s and B744/A350).


Seen as Manchester are set to get A350s in the replacement of the 747s (Some time in the next 1-2 years probably) do you think they will just move all a330-200s up to Manchester, when 787 engine issues are fixed, and keep them there and keep all a330-300s in London?
#947357 by Edward T
04 Dec 2018, 20:29
Dobbo wrote:It is worth remembering that the only reason the beach fleet B744s are operating the likes of JFK and ATL from MAN is because of the B789 problems.

Previously, VS had (to my knowledge at least) three A333s (ie circa 100 UC seats per day) operating to JFK, ATL, SFO, BOS. I presume, when the B789 issues are resolved, we will see between 2-4 A333s move back up to MAN (in addition to the A332s and B744/A350).



How does this work as the A332 were the ‘emergency fleet’. What would the 744 have been used for if the 789 issue had not happened?
#947359 by Dobbo
04 Dec 2018, 22:05
Edward T wrote:How does this work as the A332 were the ‘emergency fleet’. What would the 744 have been used for if the 789 issue had not happened?


I think (but am not 100% sure) that the A332s did not fully cover: (1) the shortfall for capacity lift from the B789 engine issues; and (2) VS’s planned expansion at MAN. Of course some A346’s have also been brought back online to help as well.

I don’t know what the B744s would have been used for, and I don’t know the extent of the B789 issues.
#947360 by jakedonson
04 Dec 2018, 22:43
Code: Select allHow does this work as the A332 were the ‘emergency fleet’. What would the 744 have been used for if the 789 issue had not happened?


How many 787s are out of service?
I think the plane was to use some Heathrow and Gatwick based A330-300s to cover for 787s (Simillar capacity) and in turn use the A330-200s at Gatwick and Manchester in place of A330-300s (Because to be honest there's no way they put those a332s on any Heathrow route). I presume the A340 brought in from storage was for premium routes usually serviced by the 787s (such as San Francisco). I also wonder how long it is going to take them to sort the 787s out because next year they're going to need one for Heathrow to Las Vegas route. Does anyone know if they reduced the LAX frequencies from 3 daily back to 2 because of the 787 issues?
#947362 by RLF
04 Dec 2018, 23:34
Hi

Currently 3 out of service, NEW, OOH and BOW, plus a couple of 332's at long term maintenance
#947363 by mitchja
04 Dec 2018, 23:42
One of the A332’s (G-VLMN) did actually op the VS21 / VS22 LHR>IAD service the other week so LHR pax are never guaranteed to not get one the A332’s ;-)
#947366 by Lucydog
05 Dec 2018, 10:44
Still think Virgin are missing out to the North of London with not providing a daily MAN/TPA run. We have been asking for this route for a few years now, and with all the A330/300 aircraft that will soon be surplus to the London hub, we up North would be more than happy to take a few. Tampa in my opinion is being neglected and will I am sure get snapped up from under Virgins nose if they don't grab it. I don't want to go to Orlando or ATL/TPA route. even twice weekly would be better than nothing.
#947367 by Bobby_Ham
05 Dec 2018, 14:46
Lucydog wrote:Still think Virgin are missing out to the North of London with not providing a daily MAN/TPA run. We have been asking for this route for a few years now, and with all the A330/300 aircraft that will soon be surplus to the London hub, we up North would be more than happy to take a few. Tampa in my opinion is being neglected and will I am sure get snapped up from under Virgins nose if they don't grab it. I don't want to go to Orlando or ATL/TPA route. even twice weekly would be better than nothing.


No chance of this happening. They're not going to dilute a very profitable MCO operation that has excellent connections via ATL as a back up. Other than Norwegian perhaps, who have no Florida presence north of Gatwick, no-one else is going to take a punt on it either. Miami is a slightly more sensible possibility, but i'd suspect that even then it's not going to happen.
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