Virgin Atlantic has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission on IAG’s proposed takeover of BMI – and has announced a new London Heathrow – Vancouver summer service and an addition summer flight to San Francisco.
The airline claims that if the merger is approved three key domestic routes to and from London Heathrow would become British Airways monopoly routes – Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester – and that competition would also be eradicated to some popular European destinations.
The airline’s submission states that this would give British Airways the opportunity and the means “to increase fares dramatically and reduce flights on these routes, backing passengers into a corner with no alternative carrier”.
Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic, said: “This takeover would take British flying back to the dark ages. For years pioneering airlines have fought to provide consumers with more choice and lower fares. This move will see British Airways unravel all of this progress made.
“When British Airways was left the only operator on the Glasgow to Heathrow route in 2011, fares paid by Scottish travellers rocketed by 34% in six months. That is not beneficial, that is backbreaking and plainly unfair.
“BA has a track record of dominating routes, forcing less flying and higher prices. BA is already operating on 60% of BMI’s routes so this move is clearly about knocking out the competition.
“This merger will see BA holding more than half of all take-off and landing slots at the UK’s only major international hub – an airport that has had much needed growth plans forcibly frozen. The regulators cannot allow British Airways to sew up UK flying and squeeze the life out of the travelling public.
“It is vital that regulatory authorities, in the UK as well as in Europe, give this merger the fullest possible scrutiny and ensure it is stopped.”
Heathrow – Vancouver
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic is to commence a new route from London Heathrow to Vancouver and additional flights to San Francisco. The new Vancouver service will commence on 24th May 2012 and will operate four times a week on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday until 27th October.
The outbound sector will depart London Heathrow at 13.00 and arrive in Vancouver at 15.10. The inbound sector will depart Vancouver at 19.50 and arrive in London Heathrow the next day at 13.45.
Virgin Atlantic is also launching a second service to San Francisco, which will operate three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, beginning on 26th March 2012 and running until 26th October. The outbound sector will depart London Heathrow at 13.00 and arrive in San Francisco at 16.50. The inbound sector will depart San Francisco at 18.50 and arrive in London Heathrow the next day at 13.45.