Virgin Atlantic is to add services to Delhi and Mumbai from Manchester, with flights going on sale on October 20.

The airline will fly three times a week from Manchester to Mumbai from December 19, and twice a week to Delhi from January 5, complementing its services from Heathrow.

It hopes the new services will generate VFR (visiting friends and relatives) traffic from the 500,000 strong Indian diaspora across the north of England in addition to business and leisure sales.

Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial office, said: “We’re delighted to launch new flying from our home in the north in Manchester. India boasts the largest foreign-born population in the UK and we’re anticipating that post Covid-19, the demand to travel home to visit loved ones will increase.

“Following the relaunch of services from Heathrow to Mumbai and Delhi in September 2020, these new services from Manchester represent our continued investment in India.

“Both Mumbai and Delhi are popular year-round destinations, and we look forward to welcoming travellers from the North and Midlands onboard as demand for leisure and business travel gradually increases to the region.

Andrew Cowan, Manchester Airports Group chief operating officer and chair of the Manchester India Partnership, said: “Securing direct services to two major Indian cities will unlock a wide range of benefits to the whole of the north. I am sure the routes will prove popular with the more than 500,000 people of Indian origin living across the region, while helping to further strengthen trade and cultural ties in both directions.

“It is pleasing to see Virgin Atlantic make a further commitment to the north, following the recent announcement of its new service to Pakistan and building on the success of its routes to America and the Caribbean in recent years.

“This news is testament to the hard work done to establish closer links between the region and India through the Manchester India Partnership, especially in the fields of education, healthcare, tourism, business and sport.”