A domestic air fares battle has been sparked between Virgin Atantic and British Airways after new offshoot Little Red reportedly offered “zero fares” – where passengers pay only taxes and charges.
BA responded with £1 fares just weeks before the airlines go head-to-head on routes from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Heathrow.
The discounts for Scotland-London passengers follow the airlines offering free travel on the routes for travellers connecting on to their long-haul services from Heathrow.
The free or £1 one-way fares involve passengers paying around £45 for their ticket in taxes such as Air Passenger Duty and other charges.
Virgin admitted to The Scotsman newspaper it had sold zero fares on the routes, but was not currently offering them.
BA said it had tickets available with a £1 to £5 fare element.
Virgin’s Little Red will fly six return flights a day between Edinburgh and Heathrow compared to 12 by BA – its most frequent domestic route.
Little Red flights from Manchester to London start on March 31, followed by Edinburgh-Heathrow on April 5 and Aberdeen-Heathrow on April 9 following the void left by BA’s takeover of BMI last year.
The Scottish Passenger Agents Association has voiced worries at Virgin’s lack of advertising until two weeks ago.
President Kevin Thom, who welcomed the return of competition on the routes as good for passengers, told The Scotsman:
“There is concern at the lack of publicity by Virgin Atlantic, which perhaps shows it is too London-centric.
“On some long-haul routes, BA does not charge the extra fare between Scotland and Heathrow, and this will be extended to others where it competes with Virgin Atlantic. That will make it even harder for Virgin.
“BA also has the advantage of having lounges for premium passengers in Edinburgh and Heathrow. Virgin does not have a lounge in terminal one at Heathrow, which will serve its Scottish flights.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman described bookings for Little Red as being “very healthy”.
BA’s head of UK sales and marketing Richard Tams said: “We are going to compete very vigorously and are pretty confident with what we are offering.”
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