Virgin Atlantic pledges to strengthen trade relations

Virgin Atlantic pledges to strengthen trade relations

Virgin Atlantic has pledged to deepen relations with the trade, hailed the imminent go-ahead for its joint venture with Delta Air Lines and rejected suggestions its Little Red domestic operation had struggled to take off.

The deal with Delta recently entered the final stage of US anti-trust clearance and confirmation is expected any day, meaning the airlines can operate as a single transatlantic business.

Virgin Atlantic worldwide sales and marketing director Maria Sebastian said it would mean “agents will have more destinations to sell”.

She reported 27% of Little Red passengers from Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are connecting with Virgin flights at Heathrow and the carrier expects up to one million passengers in the first year. Sebastian said: “Little Red is new for us. But we’re where we expected and it’s growing. We’re committed to the market.”

Sebastian and UK sales general manager Scott Davies have sought agents’ feedback while new chief executive Craig Kreeger leads a turnaround after announcing a £93 million loss in the year to February.

Davies said: “There is a lot of warmth towards the brand, but agents said finding the person they need to talk to isn’t always easy, so we’re looking at the sales structure. We’re also looking at the way we file fares and how to make it easier. We want to make business as simple as possible. The trade is so important to Virgin Atlantic’s success.”

Sebastian said: “We have a new chief executive. We have a recovery plan. We have full confidence we’ll return to profitability in two years.”

She said Little Red and the Delta deal would increase revenue, but there would also be cost cuts. However, she pledged: “We’re not looking at removing anything customers appreciate; nobody wants to destroy the Virgin brand.”

Delta took a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic last year and Sebastian said: “We know there is this questioning about the stance, but we remain true to the brand’s values.” Davies added: “We’ve been bowled over by what we have in common with Delta."

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