Virgin Atlantic today launched direct services between London and Havana and direct services between London and Nassau as part of the airline’s expansion in the Caribbean. The services will operate twice weekly between London Gatwick and Havana from 7 July and weekly between London Gatwick and Nassau from 4 July, using a Boeing 747-400 aircraft. Speaking from Virgin Atlantic’s Gatwick Clubhouse, Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, said,
“We are delighted to launch these services to Havana and Nassau. Both Cuba and The Bahamas are welcome additions to our growing Caribbean portfolio, which I am sure will prove to be extremely popular with our passengers. The launch of these new routes will form part of a 27% increase in capacity to the Caribbean for Virgin Atlantic this year.
“Cuba is a beautiful country, with a fascinating history and amazing achievements in fields like medicine and sport. The history and culture of Havana combined with its Caribbean climate and the beaches of Varadero, means that Cuba is a destination which has something for everyone and it has really captivated the imaginations of British travellers.
“Over the years, demand for The Bahamas has been strong with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays passengers travelling over from London via Miami. Now that we are able to offer this direct link, offering more flexibility and greater value for money for our leisure and business travellers, we are certain popularity for The Bahamas will grow even more.”
“The leisure market, in particular our services to the Caribbean, has remained strong throughout the difficult years following September 11 2001 and we are confident that its popularity will continue to grow over the coming years.
“The new Virgin Atlantic route also means a projected annual economic benefit to Cuba of £30m per year and the new route to Nassau an estimated $35m in increased jobs, trade and tourism.
Virgin Holidays, sister company to Virgin Atlantic, has become the UK’s largest scheduled tour operator to the Caribbean. It recently launched its most extensive range of Caribbean holidays in a dedicated 2006 brochure with a wide range of holidays to both Cuba and The Bahamas.
Amanda Wills, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays said:
“These new flights to Cuba and Bahamas have been long awaited by our customers and have already come with much welcome. Cuba and Bahamas have long been a popular part of Virgin Holidays’ programme and since announcing these new flights, we have already seen sales grow by more than 20%.
“Our continued expansion in the Caribbean has awarded us the title of UK’s largest tour operator to the region and we now take more than 130,000 customers annually. The addition of Virgin Atlantic’s new flights will continue to give a huge boost to our customers and its extended support means we are set to grow even further. We will continue to add even more flexibility of product and lifestyle holidays, including adventure holidays, spas and ‘Extra Virgin’ hotels.”
Virgin Atlantic first began to operate to the Caribbean in 1998 with services to Antigua, Barbados and St Lucia and introduced flights between London and Grenada and Tobago in May 2003. Since 1998 the airline has flown over two million passengers between London and the Caribbean.