Virgin Atlantic Bets Big On India, Reveals New Flights and Local Cabin Crew Hires

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Skift Take

Virgin Atlantic has been serving India for almost 25 years. Today’s developments suggest its presence in the country will grow even further.

Virgin Atlantic is best known for linking Britain with the United States, but there’s another market that is increasingly important for the carrier. 

India now represents the airline’s largest growth area outside of the U.S., and there’s even more expansion to come. 

On Wednesday, the company announced plans to double the number of flights between London Heathrow and Mumbai. A second daily service is due to begin on October 27 and will be operated by Virgin’s flagship Airbus A350-1000. 

The carrier also serves Delhi double-daily and last week added the southern city of Bengaluru to its network. All existing routes are typically served by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Virgin’s International Partners

To provide extra feeder traffic for its nonstop services from India, Virgin Atlantic codeshares with IndiGo to provide 36 connections at its Indian hubs.

On the London side, it also partners with Delta Air Lines for transit options to and from North America. Roughly a third of Virgin Atlantic’s total passengers, or about 3,000 people a day, connect at Heathrow.

Virgin said the addition of another Mumbai flight “signaled its continued commitment to the region.” By next year, the airline will offer more than a million seats to and from India annually, which it describes as “a key strategic market.” It says this marks a 350% increase compared to 2019. 

As well as passenger traffic, the larger aircraft and enhanced frequencies allow for more goods to be carried by Virgin Atlantic Cargo. Once the fifth daily flight to India launches in October, freight capacity will be up 336% versus 2019. 

Additional Indian Cabin Crew

To better accommodate the increasing number of Indian passengers on its services, Virgin is also ramping up local recruitment.

The airline is quadrupling the number of Indian-based cabin crew operating on its India routes for the coming summer season. An average flight will now have four Indian flight attendants “to deliver a more personalized service.”

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic has described India as “a huge opportunity” for the airline, adding that the company is “anticipating a huge growth in demand for international travel from the region.”

Jarvinen’s comments echo those of Air India CEO, Campbell Wilson. Speaking at the Skift India Summit in Delhi last month, he described “the wonder of India”, and suggested the market is now on par with Continental Europe and North America. 

Despite the country’s rapid aviation growth, it remains relatively underserved according to Indian aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.

“Even if, as per projections, the number of domestic passengers reaches 635 million by fiscal year 2030, India will still be one of the least penetrated of the 20 largest markets,” he said in January.

Airlines Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of airline sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets including network carriers, low-cost carriers, and other related companies.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more airlines sector financial performance. 

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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