Low passenger loads has forced Virgin Atlantic to drop its Little Red UK domestic operation next year.
Little Red will stop flying between London and Manchester in March and from London to Aberdeen and Edinburgh next September. It was launched in March last year.
Richard Branson, the airline’s president, blamed the closure on the “meagre package of slots” awarded to Little Red by the European Commission.
He said: “When the competition authorities allowed British Airways to take over British Midland and all of its slots, we feared there was little we could do to challenge BA’s huge domestic and European network built through decades of dominance.”
Operated by all-economy Airbus A320s wet-leased from Aer Lingus, the aircraft featured Virgin livery while crew wore Virgin uniforms.
Reviewing the service in February for Business Traveller Middle East, I found Little Red’s product and service were fine but noted a number of inherent challenges: the aforementioned competition with BA domestically; transfer times at Heathrow for connecting passengers; the convenience of city-to-city rail links within the UK – ironically where Virgin has built a strong brand; and competition from Gulf carriers, which serve Manchester and Scotland directly as well as Heathrow in abundance, which hit Virgin’s ability to attract international through-traffic.
All these factors are likely to have impacted the operation as much as slot constraints.