Virgin Atlantic adds to a clutch of new transatlantic routes with the introduction of flights to the Cuban beach resort of Varadero on Sunday.
Weekly flights will run from Gatwick and come within days of the carrier starting a Seattle service from Heathrow and connections from Manchester to Boston and San Francisco.
The introduction of the new Gatwick route makes Virgin Atlantic the only UK airline to run year-round services to both Varadero and Havana.
The new Cuba service is expected to carry about 28,000 additional British holidaymakers to Varadero a year.
Virgin Holidays is adding increased hotel capacity this year to cope with demand.
Almost half (45%) of existing holidaymakers to Cuba land in Havana and take a two-hour journey via road to Varadero.
The new flights will allow people to travel to either destination and Virgin Holidays expects a significant increase in the number of customers who arrive and depart from different airports.
The launch comes on the back of research by Virgin Holidays which found that more than a third of Britons (37%) claim to be more interested in travel to Cuba now than they were two years ago.
The poll of 1,000 people highlighted that the majority of travellers (41%) wanted to visit Cuba before it was changed by an influx of tourism, followed by 36% who said an increase in media coverage over recent years had spiked their interest and 31% who had received endorsement from family and friends.
One of the top activities for UK travellers is to learn more about the local history (26%). This was driven by a quarter of respondents saying the death of Fidel Castro encouraged them to learn more about the destination.
The operator is promoting the route by encouraging consumers to book its ‘Cars to Cuba’ service. The option is available to applicants in London, Glasgow and Manchester on April 28. Successful applicants and a friend can enter their details for the chance to ride in a classic vintage Cuban car and receive a voucher to attend a salsa dance lesson to master the Cha-Cha.
Virgin Holidays managing director, David Geer, said: “We are seeing strong growth to Cuba and the island is currently experiencing a surge in recognition as a ‘hotlist’ destination.
“As an increasingly popular holiday hot spot, we look forward to welcoming British travellers to enjoy the beautiful island hotels and unique cultural experiences.”
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