Virgin Atlantic drops YVR route

Virgin Atlantic YVR | BCBusiness
YVR welcomed Virgin Atlantic’s first Vancouver flight on May 24, 2012.

After two years servicing YVR, Virgin has dropped its Vancouver flights to focus on more profitable routes with stronger demand

Virgin Atlantic announced today it is cancelling its Vancouver-London route.

The airline launched its only Canadian flights to London Heathrow to great fanfare, with Premier Christy Clark joining Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson at Vancouver International Airport two years ago.

It will continue its scheduled summer service (May-October) until next month, with the final flight scheduled for October 11. This new route initially saw its weekly flight frequency boosted from four to five in 2013 after seeing an 18 per cent increase in passenger volume.

According to the Vancouver Airport Authority at the time of the launch, Virgin’s arrival was set to produce 35 direct jobs at YVR, 172 indirectly via increased tourism in hotels and restaurants, for example, and bring in around $21.5 million yearly in tourism revenue. Sarah Coggins, head of communications for North America
at Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., says there are no job losses for the company in Vancouver, where it has one contracted employee managing sales and an outsourced airport team.

“Vancouver is a great city and we were excited to launch our seasonal service here in 2012,” she explains by email. “However, we need to ensure that we operate on routes where our customers want to fly and unfortunately Vancouver hasn’t proven to be as popular as we’d have hoped and we have a stronger demand in alternative markets.”

The closing down of the YVR-LHR service is part of a global shuffle at the company, which will increase the number of London’s flights and routes to the U.S., but drop Vancouver as well as Cape Town, Tokyo Narita and Mumbai, according to its press release. “Building on its existing two-year recovery plan, which is on target to deliver an annual profit by the end of 2014, the airline is now shifting focus onto positioning its business for long-term success,” it reads. (According to the Financial Times, the airline has been loss-making for three years.)

Coggins adds that 2013-14 was not necessarily worse for increase in passenger volume, but stresses the highly competitive nature of the industry. “In order to deliver sustained profitability and the best airline possible for our passengers, we need to deploy our aircraft on routes which are financially viable,” she states. “We have enjoyed great commitment from both our staff and customers in Vancouver. Nothing has gone wrong but we are seeing a greater demand for other routes to and from London Heathrow.”

Virgin’s partnership with Delta Air Lines it will continue to offer a one-stop service to Vancouver connecting through Seattle or Minneapolis, Coggins concludes, and, if London Heathrow were to create its “long overdue expansion, we would love to fly from Vancouver again.”