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Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 12 : 46 PM [IST]

‘We have increased our footprint in India via code-share agreements’

QWhat kind of connectivity does Virgin Atlantic Airlines offers to India?
Virgin Atlantic operates a daily service between Delhi and London Heathrow connecting passengers from multiple cities across India.

London is always our strongest market but we are seeing healthy growth in other UK cities connecting via London from India. Last year, we announced a codeshare partnership with Flybe offering easy connections from Edinburgh and Aberdeen in Scotland via London Heathrow.

We also extended our codeshare partnership with 9W over Delhi to 12 cities including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Amritsar, Goa, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Jaipur and Calicut. That partnership also supports US connections through Mumbai. Jet Airways fly thrice daily between Mumbai and London connecting via London Heathrow, to hundreds of US destinations on Virgin Atlantic or our transatlantic partner, Delta. Our transatlantic joint venture with Delta offers connections to over 200 destinations in the US.

QYou said that you would tap the growth opportunities in both leisure and business segments. What is your strategy in this direction?
Like all airlines the leisure market is key and to remain competitive we have to continue to deliver excellent customer service, great value for money and a network serving a wide range of popular destinations. Business travel is also increasingly important in India and service elements such as Wi-Fi, the Clubhouse in London Heathrow and our Flying Programme are particularly important to this group. We are currently focusing more on strengthening our contact centre and sales support to be able to cater to all queries that we receive from our customers as well as the trade community so that they retain the high levels of confidence in us.

QRecently, Virgin Atlantic introduced three types of Economy classes to suit passenger’s budget and travel style. Do you think India is mature for a product offering in Economy class?
We are an innovative British airline putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. We have the most exciting times coming up as we’re unveiling the biggest change to our economy cabin in over a decade – launching three new ways to fly with economy light, economy classic and economy delight, and a host of innovations on the ground and in the air as part of a wider £300 million investment in our customers. We know that one size doesn’t fit all, and from spring our customers can afford to be choosy and still travel in the UK’s leading economy cabin. Economy Delight will offer the leading economy product of any UK airline - customers will enjoy a seat with 34 inch legroom, priority check in and boarding as well as advanced seat assignment at a competitive price. Economy Classic will now offer free seat assignment – providing extra reassurance for families and groups that they can sit together. The new Economy Light ticket will always offer Virgin Atlantic’s lowest fare - making long haul travel affordable and accessible for millennials, and customers jetting off on city breaks.

QAs far as the London route is concerned, passengers both from Delhi and Mumbai have the choice of two excellent carriers. What factors will drive them to choose Virgin Atlantic?
We fly the state-of-the-art 787-9 Dreamliner on the Delhi-London route, which has proved to be extremely popular with customers. Our Upper Class is quite popular amongst our customers who prefer to fly first class at a business class price with fully flat beds, comfortable seat, a 2.7 meters long on board bar – the longest in the sky and on ground services such as Private security channel at London Heathrow, Limo service at both ends of the journey, priority checkin and boarding.

In addition to our Upper Class Bar, we’ve also created a social space in Premium called the Wander Wall where customers can get out of their seats and mingle with crew and other customers while helping themselves to snacks and drinks. The Premium cabin is aimed at the cost-conscious business and leisure travellers who relish the extra space and luxury in which to work or relax. We believe that to attract Indian passengers we have to offer something special to meet their tastes and requirements. So we have fabulous Indian crew serving delectable Indian food onboard. Entertainment on-board has a good selection of Indian films, from the latest blockbusters to some of the classics.

QWhere does India rank as market for Virgin Atlantic?
India has always been an important and a growing market for us. The UK government has a focus on India as a key trading partner, and so we’re excited about (and will be championing) the new opportunities for India that will result in a bigger, stronger commercial partnership between the UK and India. Through our focus on improving our codeshare agreements we have effectively increased our footprint within India.

QWhich travellers segments drive your business on Indian routes?
The Delhi route continues to hold extremely important commercial value to the network. Not only do we serve our global corporate customers on the route, but also large volumes of VFR as well.

prasenjit.chakraborty@saffronsynergies.in
 
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