Virgin Atlantic has ruled out a return to Gatwick Airport this year after previously intimating that it could return. CEO Shai Weiss stated that Virgin would instead focus on its Heathrow operations, but didn't rule out a Gatwick return in the future.
No Gatwick return after all
Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss has confirmed that the carrier will not be returning to Gatwick this year, despite the airline previously saying it was planning a Gatwick return for the Summer 2022 season.
"Traditionally, we have flown leisure routes out of Gatwick. We have slots at Gatwick and we would like to think there is an opportunity for Gatwick. But it’s not this year."
The carrier canceled all operations at Gatwick Airport at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. In November, Virgin Atlantic claimed that it was returning to Gatwick Airport this summer. However, this will no longer be the case until 2023 at the earliest.
Weiss left the door open for a Gatwick return at some point. Before packing up and moving to Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic offered a range of leisure flights to US and Caribbean destinations out of its Gatwick base.
Consolidating at Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic will concentrate on its Heathrow hub after moving its operations to the UK's busiest airport in the wake of the pandemic.
"[Heathrow is] where our business hub is, this is where we connect with other carriers, this is where people want to fly."
This is not to say that Virgin Atlantic is entirely happy at its new base. CEO Weiss expressed his displeasure at Heathrow's 56% rise in fees.
"[Fees are] way too high and damaging for consumers. It’s a £200 increase for a family traveling to Orlando."
Together with British Airways and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Weiss had previously claimed that Heathrow was "up to its old tricks again" by prioritizing shareholders over passengers, airlines, and the UK economy.
Pre-pandemic US network is back
Virgin Atlantic has successfully rebuilt its pre-pandemic US network out of its Heathrow hub. The airline is now flying to all of its pre-pandemic US destinations as it looks forward to a resurgent 2022.
"We are back, as of last week, to all destinations in the United States, with Washington Dulles and Seattle."
Additionally, Virgin Atlantic will launch its first new US route in seven years, flying from Heathrow to Austin, Texas.
Weiss stated that Virgin is flying 95% of its sectors at 85% of capacity. The CEO also said that most of Virgin's pilots placed on hold over the pandemic would return to their roles.
Do you think Virgin Atlantic has made the right move by staying out of Gatwick Airport? Let us know your insights in the comments.