Virgin Atlantic has kicked off a major growth drive at Manchester Airport, launching the first of a hat trick of new long haul routes to America.
The airline waved off its inaugural service to San Francisco, the first ever direct route to northern California from the north of England.
To mark the occasion, Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer, Shai Weiss, along with minister for international trade, Greg Hands, and Manchester
Airports Group chief Charlie Cornish greeted guests before the flight’s departure.
They were joined by more than 30 tech leaders from the north of England, who are travelling on the inaugural flight as part of a trade mission to Silicon Valley, which remains the world’s most important hub for the sector.
Weiss commented: “We’ve been flying out of Manchester for over 20 years and today marks our biggest ever route expansion from the city.
“We want to offer our customers services to places they want to travel to and this summer, we’ll have 26 per cent more seats out of the city than last year, cementing our commitment to Manchester and the Northern Powerhouse.”
In additional to San Francisco, a new route from Manchester to Boston launches today, with Virgin Atlantic’s direct connection between the Northern Powerhouse and JFK New York commences in May, cementing the airline’s commitment to the region.
Operating three times weekly from summer 2017, Virgin Atlantic’s Manchester-San Francisco flights will connect the region with world famous landmarks such as Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Virgin Atlantic will be the first ever carrier to provide direct services between Manchester and the northern Californian city.
The new route to the historic city of Boston in New England will fly twice weekly, also starting summer 2017.
A year round New York service will operate yearly from May.
All three routes will operate in conjunction with Virgin Atlantic’s joint venture partner, Delta Air Lines.
International trade minister, Greg Hands, said: “The Northern Powerhouse, like Silicon Valley, is a leading centre of creativity and innovation.
“A direct link between the home of the industrial revolution, and the home of the digital revolution will be a boost for both regions, and for the Northern Powerhouse’s ambitious tech and digital companies as they take advantage of new markets and trading opportunities across the world.”