Virgin Atlantic have announced that they intend to start flights to Moscow at some stage during 2013. This new route will be part of a change in focus by the airline, which will also include a number of as yet unconfirmed short-haul European routes.
The airline is confirmed that their first flights to Russia will be operated using Airbus A330 twin jets, offering slightly fewer seats than their larger Airbus A340 and Boeing 747 -- 400 jets, whilst still being equipped with their Upper Class and premium economy cabins in addition to regular economy class. These flights will operate daily from Heathrow Airport, although Virgin have not yet confirmed which of the three Moscow area airports they will use. At present, British Airways and Transaero Airlines operate flights to Moscow Domodedovo from Heathrow, whereas Russia's flag carrier Aeroflot use Sheremetyevo airport.
Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive, Steve Ridgway said:
This route is now open for another UK airline following BA’s takeover of BMI and we are making preparations to take up these rights early next year. Linking these two cities will be an important part of our strategy to run short haul flights into Heathrow thus feeding our long haul network. It will also radically improve competition on the route giving business and leisure travellers much better choice.
As well as securing designation from the UK government, the route launch will be predicated on winning the Heathrow slots that BA was forced to give up. Our core flying has always been across the Atlantic but we have been clear that we will also continue to grow our routes to emerging markets if given the slots at London Heathrow. Moscow would be our third BRIC country and we think it is imperative for British trade that we are operating in these economies.
Demand for flights to Moscow has trebled in the last decade as the Russian economy has continued to grow and London has become a top destination both for leisure and for inward investment. Despite this growth, direct Moscow flights are currently only available from Heathrow airport, although Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific have previously announced an intention to operate flights from Manchester to Hong Kong via the Russian capital.
Although post-Soviet Russia remains the world's largest country by area, UK-based passengers still have to take connecting flights to reach most other Russian cities. The only other Russian destination with direct flights is St Petersburg. flights to St Petersburg are available from Heathrow airport with British Airways and from Gatwick with Rossiya Airlines.