Virgin Atlantic Airways today announced that it plans to launch direct weekly services between London Gatwick and Tobago and Grenada from May 2003 and is also planning to launch a weekly Manchester - Barbados service in Winter 2003. In addition to these new routes the airline will also expand its existing services between Gatwick and Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua.
Commenting on the announcement, Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic said today:
“I am delighted that Virgin Atlantic is extending the services it offers between the UK and the Caribbean. Virgin Atlantic entered the Caribbean market in 1998 introducing services between Gatwick and Barbados, Antigua and St Lucia and by the end of this year we will have flown over 1 million passengers on the Caribbean routes.
“Passengers travelling to Grenada and Tobago will now be able to benefit from Virgin Atlantic’s award winning service and attractive fares while those in Manchester will be able to fly direct with Virgin to the Caribbean for the first time.”
The expansion plans mean Virgin Atlantic will be offering nearly 6500 seats each week by Winter 2003 - an increase in capacity to the Caribbean of over 110%.
Virgin Holidays will be offering its customers an extensive programme of packages from May to December 2003. The dedicated Grenada and Tobago brochure will be launched on September 12 and prices will start from just £549 for a week’s holiday.
Amanda Wills, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, commented:
“Our programme to the Caribbean has proved hugely successful and we are very excited about being able to expand further using Virgin Atlantic flights. We have a fantastic range of holidays to Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua and have now bought an excellent programme on Grenada and Tobago offering a full product range. Our Caribbean programme is now one of the most extensive on the market.”
Judith Wilcox, Regional Manager Caribbean, Virgin Atlantic commented:
“These new Virgin Atlantic routes mean a projected annual economic benefit to Tobago and Grenada of more than US$5 million in increased jobs, trade and tourism. We look forward to a long and positive relationship with the islands.”
The new weekly service from London Gatwick to Tobago and then onto Grenada will depart on Monday mornings and will be operated by a Boeing 747. The return service will depart both islands on Monday evenings and arrive into London Gatwick early on Tuesdays.
The airline currently operates daily flights to the Caribbean and by Winter 2003 this will have increased to twice daily. The additional new routes will bring the number of Virgin Atlantic destinations to twenty-one.
Virgin Atlantic also today filed audited accounts covering the performance of the airline and its related holidays and cargo operations for the financial year-end 30 April 2002. The outline of these results was previously announced in unaudited form on 17 May. The accounts show that Virgin Atlantic made a profit before tax and exceptional items of £2m - a better performance than its rivals across the North Atlantic.
Once the exceptional items arising out of the tragic events of September 11 have been taken into account the final figure for the year was a pre-tax loss of £92m, in line with the announcement in May. The Virgin Atlantic group turnover for the year was £1.416 billion during which time the airline carried 4m passengers. Virgin Atlantic is aiming to return to profitability this year.
These results reflect the strong management actions taken to mitigate the impacts of the terrorist events and re-shape the business to withstand any longer term consequences of September 11.