Longhaul back in Manchester?
When Thomas Cook folded, Manchester, and virtually all UK travellers outside of London were left with a huge void. Despite virtually all long haul flights departing from the southeastern capital and without Thomas Cook, many travellers were left without viable options.
Virgin Atlantic immediately picked up where the defunct airline left off, bringing long haul route expansion, and announcing brand new Clubhouse and Vroom Lounges, which are currently under construction. All the commotion left many wondering where British Airways was during it all. Were they not interested in flying out of Manchester and serving the North, instead of just focusing on the Heathrow fortress?
According to a source which is yet to be incorrect, a strong rumour is floating around that British Airways will indeed launch long haul flights from Manchester, but in a bit of a biting blow – the rumour is that the only reason they are doing so, is because they don’t want Virgin to look good…
Oneworld already flies long haul out of Manchester, albeit, not with a single British Airways jet. American Airlines operates a Manchester to Philadelphia flight utilising a Boeing 787, and both Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific are regular features as well. Britain’s flag carrier doesn’t have any long haul service out of the second largest flying base in the country.
Thomas Cook, TUI and leisure market airlines dominated the Manchester scene, but in recent years, Qatar, Emirates and other leading legacy airlines moved in and won great favour, removing hassle from connecting passenger journeys. Despite it all, British Airways never budged. That is, until Virgin Atlantic started investing heavily in Manchester over the last year.
Virgin Atlantic is set to add 43,000 seats to its summer schedule out of Manchester, after adding over 30,000 seats to its winter flying. More seats means more competitive fares for travellers, and it also often brings better seats, aircraft and facilities.
With a new Clubhouse Lounge set to open in summer 2020, Virgin Atlantic clearly means business. Executive Vice President of Commercial, Juha Jarvinen, calls Manchester Virgin Atlantic’s “home in the north”.
To counter, British Airways is apparently in the process of launching long haul services featuring the Boeing 787. Qatar Airways currently flies a mix of A350, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787, while Cathay flies an Airbus A350.
The 787 is a great aircraft to launch new service with, since it’s both fuel efficient and small enough to decrease pressure on filling seats. As of now, timing is still a mystery, but as noted, the source of this rumour is yet to be wrong in many years of appreciated tip offs.
Whether it’s too little too late from BA, or just in the nick of time, airlines battling it out is great news for consumers, and Manchester should look ahead to a golden year of flying. Expect more direct long haul flights than ever, at prices lower than usual, thanks to the competition.