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Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd will make a comeback to Mumbai in October-end this year after a hiatus of three years, sensing opportunity on the growing India-UK and India-USA markets.
The airline’s move comes six months after Kingfisher Airlines Ltd suspended its London flights and put on hold its plans to join rival British Airways-led oneworld alliance. Kingfisher’s entry into oneworld would have given Virgin’s rival British Airways even bigger passenger feed from Indian market, which would have made it even difficult for Virgin to grab market share, according to a report by Aneesh Phadnis in the Business Standard. Virgin Atlantic currently operates flights to Delhi-London route.
Virgin Atlantic, owned by Sir Richard Branson, operated flights to Mumbai from London between 2005-09. Its return comes at a time when other foreign airlines are cutting down their flights in India or pulling out altogether, citing increase in operating costs and increase in tariff with flights to Delhi at the airport. “We had to withdraw our service in 2009 due to the global economic slowdown, but we always said that if it was economically viable, we would come back. The time is now right, with the Mumbai-London market growing by nine per cent since 2009, and we are looking forward to starting our flights to India, with flights to Mumbai next month and serving the people of Mumbai,” said Steve Ridgway, CEO, Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.