Virgin Atlantic will stop flying its Vancouver-London route on October 11 and will not resume seasonal flights on that route next year, the airline announced September 3.
The move is part of Virgin restructuring its route schedule to focus on “flying routes which deliver maximum profit or strategic importance,” the company said in a statement.
“We are disappointed to learn that Virgin Atlantic is no longer going to fly direct from Vancouver to London,” Vancouver International Airport Authority (YVR) vice-president of marketing and communications Anne Murray told Business in Vancouver.
“It’s part of a strategic business decision that they’ve taken because they’re looking to really maximize the benefits of their joint-venture partnership with Delta Air Lines. So, it’s not just Vancouver. It’s also a number of other airports.”
Virgin will increase flights to the U.S., including a new route between London and Detroit. It will also increase flight frequency between London and each of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.
The airline, which is 51% owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is also axing its routes between London’s Heathrow Airport and airports in Tokyo, Mumbai and Cape Town.
Delta Air Lines last year bought a 49% in Virgin Atlantic and that investment helped instigate some of the airline’s changes, according to Virgin’s statement.
Both Delta and Virgin will swap routes so that Virgin flies a new daily service between Manchester and Atlanta, which is Delta’s headquarters.
Delta, in turn, will fly one of Virgin’s existing routes between London and Newark.
Virgin first launched four-times-per-week, seasonal flights between Vancouver and London in May 2012. CEO Branson visited Vancouver and caused a stir when he tweeted an invite for Premier Christy Clark to go kite surfing naked. He later apologized.
Other executives at the time told Business in Vancouver that their long-term goal was for the Vancouver operation to be profitable enough to have daily flights year-round.
The 40,000 passengers who used the four-times-per-week service were expected to generate approximately $21.5 million annually in tourism revenue and create an additional 172 direct jobs in hotels, restaurants, shops and tourist attractions. The service was also estimated to add $10.4 million to B.C.'s gross domestic product.
Things appeared to be going well with the airline this year bumping up their flights out of Vancouver to five times per week for part of the season.
Overall, things are going well at YVR, Murray said.
The airport is coming off its busiest-ever August and is set to steamroll past its record of 17,971,883 passengers in 2013.
“We’ve had our highest growth ever,” Murray said. “We may actually get to 19 million passengers this year.”