Virgin Atlantic faces a battle with easyJet for the right to fly between London and Moscow as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) considers traffic rights on the route.
The CAA will decide on the award of operating rights to Moscow next month following the takeover of BMI by British Airways. BMI flew the route daily.
EasyJet would fly from Gatwick to Moscow if it gains traffic rights. Virgin Atlantic is bidding for slots divested by BA at Heathrow for use to Moscow.
BA must divest 14 pairs of Heathrow slots throw as a condition of its BMI takeover. Two of the slots to Moscow have already gone to Transaero, based in Moscow.
Virgin will bid for the other 12 pairs and formally notified the European Commission of its intention last month.
The carrier confirmed it aims to begin services to Moscow in August when it also announced a codeshare agreement with Transaero.
However, easyJet has other ideas. In evidence submitted to the CAA, easyJet has argued Virgin Atlantic would offer a similar service to BA, aimed at corporate travellers.
EasyJet claims it would offer an alternative kind of service on the route.
Chief executive Carolyn McCall said this week: “We have proved that when we enter a new market we open it up, bringing competition and lower fares, enabling more people to travel.”
She claimed: “EasyJet’s low-cost model can’t be matched by BA or Virgin.”
Moscow would be one of easyJet's longest routes to date if it gains the traffic rights. Heathrow-Moscow would be Virgin Atlantic’s first medium-haul route - with Manchester-Heathrow, due to commence next March, its first short-haul operation.
Traffic between London and Moscow has trebled in the past decade.
McCall will speak at World Travel Market in London
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