LONDON – Virgin Atlantic axing Hong Kong permanently signifies the disabled growth opportunities for long-haul carriers wanting to operate into Asia from the West.
The airline said the following in a statement, blaming the closure of Russian airspace as the main factor:
“After careful consideration, we’ve taken the difficult decision to suspend our London Heathrow – Hong Kong services and close our Hong Kong office, after almost 30 years of proudly serving this Asian hub city”.
Virgin also added that the flight times would take around 1-2 hours longer due to having to evade Russia, which would result in extra costs incurred as a result.
Hong Kong was supposed to return to the Virgin roster in March 2023 following the successful introduction of the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft it has in its fleet already.
However, Virgin has confirmed that these aircraft will be used on other routes where Summer 2023 demand is expected to be high.
BA & Cathay Pacific Main Competitors…
With Virgin pulling out of this route, this just leaves British Airways and Cathay Pacific as the main competitors for services to Hong Kong from the UK.
British Airways will be restarting services to the region in December, with Cathay Pacific already serving the likes of Manchester and London Heathrow too.
This will potentially prove to be a benefit to consumers, as a price war could be engaged as a result of this withdrawal from Virgin.
Especially with passengers wanting to fly direct rather than fly to the Middle East and connect, we could potentially see better value for money going forward.
It is clear that this particular route is on a list of many that have been feeling the pinch when it comes to trying to evade Russian airspace following such bans instigated by the Ukraine Crisis.
Finnair is a major example of this, especially with the airline having to either make cuts or upgrade its frequencies to other regions of the world.
Such bans from Russian airspace have forced airlines to think outside of the box a little bit and maybe go as far as starting new routes as a result of this.
There are, of course, some carriers who are happy to make the extra couple of hours in flight time, but there is only so long that this can remain sustainable, especially as we enter a global recession.
It remains clear that Virgin Atlantic they have got backups in place that they can use instead of Hong Kong. In their case, it does appear that a focus will need to be placed on flights to the U.S.
Looking ahead, especially with the A330neos yet to be delivered, as well as their continued deliveries of the A350-1000, the airline does seem to be in a position to get rid of the weak points and push on forward.
As we approach Summer 2023, it’s going to be interesting to see what further utilization in terms of increased frequencies will begin to look like.