Delta & Virgin Atlantic’s 2020 Transatlantic Expansion

Filed Under: Delta, Virgin Atlantic

Delta and Virgin Atlantic have a transatlantic joint venture, and as part of that the airlines have just announced some significant expansion for next summer. There are a couple of things that make this interesting, right off the bat:

  • In April 2019 Delta announced they’d begin to fly to London Gatwick, though oddly the announcement came around the same time that JetBlue announced they’d start flying to Europe, so in some way it seemed like a scare tactic
  • It’s interesting to see new route announcements right now, because Air France-KLM, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic have a big new joint venture that should receive final approval shortly (it has already been conditionally approved, and currently Delta has a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic, and separately a joint venture with Air France-KLM)

So, what’s happening?

Delta launching Boston to London Gatwick flight

Delta will be launching a daily nonstop flight between Boston and London Gatwick as of May 22, 2020. The flight will operate with the following schedule:

Boston to London Gatwick departing 9:00PM arriving 8:45AM (+1 day)
London Gatwick to Boston departing 10:30AM arriving 1:20PM

This will mark the seventh nonstop transatlantic destination for Delta from Boston.

This also marks the first time that Delta is flying to London Gatwick since 2014. As Delta’s VP Transatlantic describes the new route:

“We’re excited to return to London Gatwick, which is where we launched our first U.K. destination over 40 years ago as well as Manchester, and continue to grow our international network from Boston. Together with Virgin Atlantic, we are strengthening our presence in the northeast U.S. and in London, offering customers a greater choice of destinations combined with the excellent service they can expect from our airlines.”

Delta 767-400

Virgin Atlantic launching New York to London Gatwick flight

Virgin Atlantic will be launching a daily nonstop flight between New York and London Gatwick as of May 21, 2020. The flight will operate with the following schedule:

New York JFK to London Gatwick departing 7:30PM arriving 7:50AM (+1 day)
London Gatwick to New York JFK departing 12:55PM arriving 3:40PM

This complements their existing flights from New York JFK to London Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic 747Virgin Atlantic 747-400

Delta launching Boston to Manchester flight

Delta will be launching a daily summer service between Boston and Manchester as of May 21, 2020. The flight will operate with the following schedule:

Boston to Manchester departing 10:00PM arriving 9:30AM (+1 day)
Manchester to Boston departing 11:30AM arriving 2:00PM

Unfortunately Delta will be taking over Virgin Atlantic’s flight here, so this doesn’t entirely represent a capacity increase.

On the plus side, frequencies will be increased from 3x per week to daily, offering an extra 45% capacity compared to this summer.

This will make Manchester Delta’s eighth transatlantic destination from Boston, which further marks their growth in the market. It’s incredible to see how American gave up on Boston years ago, and now Delta is giving JetBlue a real run for their money there.

As before, Virgin Atlantic will operate flights from Manchester to Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York JFK, and Orlando.

Increased frequencies at London Heathrow

In addition to expansion at London Gatwick and Manchester, Delta and Virgin Atlantic will also increase capacity in other markets as of the summer of 2020:

  • Between New York JFK and London Heathrow, the two airlines will increase capacity by 15% as of March 29, 2020; the airlines will have a combined eight daily flights between JFK and LHR, including three operated by Delta and five operated by Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Atlantic will increase frequencies between London Heathrow and Seattle from 7x weekly to 11x weekly
  • Virgin Atlantic will increase frequencies between London Heathrow and Los Angeles from 14x weekly to 17x weekly

Virgin Atlantic 787-9

Delta 767-400 & Virgin Atlantic A350 updates

Starting this winter, all Delta flights from London Heathrow to New York JFK and Boston will be operated by reconfigured 767-400s. Now, don’t get too excited.

Delta’s new 767-400 business class

While this product is better than their old 767 business class seats, this is still nowhere close to being as nice as the Delta One Suites, found on A350-900s, A330-900neos, and select 777-200s.

On top of that, Virgin Atlantic is currently in the process of taking delivery of A350-1000s, featuring their new Upper Class seats. As of now the airline has scheduled these to fly exclusively between London and New York.

Virgin Atlantic’s new A350 Upper Class seats

Virgin Atlantic has announced that Los Angeles will be the second destination to receive the A350-1000, as of some point next year.

Bottom line

While I wouldn’t say there’s anything earth-shattering here, these are all around positive updates, including the addition of more flights to Heathrow, as well as expansion to London Gatwick and Manchester.

I am curious about Delta & Virgin Atlantic’s motivation in flying to London Gatwick, though. Historically Virgin Atlantic has used Gatwick as a leisure gateway, so what’s the motivation for flying there from Boston or London? Do they truly view this as a separate market, is this a proactive move against JetBlue, or what?

What do you make of these latest Delta & Virgin Atlantic route updates?

Comments
  1. Amazing. Jet Blue announce transatlantic services … and all of a sudden, Delta decides Boston is a great market to fly out a lot from. They’ll be overcapacity in the market, Delta will lose some money, but they hope Jet Blue loses more and will quit the lucrative transatlantic market that Skyteam and OneWorld etc have been trying to build a oligopoly on

  2. Gatwick is great for the millions of people who live south and south east of London who have to drive past Gatwick to get to Heathrow. Is pretty good if you live near a Thameslink station. (As I used to at Farringdon)

    Even if it is a bit more leisure oriented and and yields are lower, slots are cheaper and they’ll have no problem filling the planes.

  3. @Ben L.

    Yes, it’s been nearly twenty years since they flew to ORD. Been hoping they’d go back there too.

  4. @ Zich.

    City only from New York on BA. Otherwise, I’d stick with LHR. The Heathrow Express drops you at St. Pancras in 15 mins.

  5. where are they getting all the Heathrow slots from? This frequency increase at Heathrow is in addition to new routes to new routes to Tel Aviv, Mumbai and Sao Paulo.

  6. In terms of mobility,
    For most visitors or using public transportation, LHR is better.
    For residents to the south of London with cars, LGW is better.

    Now if LGW is at least a 100 quid cheaper, now that changes things.

    And While 767 vs 350 is a huge difference it is still better than flying on 757.
    BOS-MAN from VS 330 to DL 767 is a bit of downgrade.

  7. Responses to a few posts

    VS definitly flew LHR-ORD in November 2008 because I flew with them. I remember because I scored a miles upgrade at the airport and it was my first UC flight.

    Does Jetblue even have any slots at LHR or LGW yet? If they do have they advertised flights for sale? I know they want some but do they have any? LCY not going to happen with them as the cost of having to land at e.g.DUB or SNN to top up on fuel would increase fares and pax would be annoyed if it was only a fuel stop and they didn;t get pre clearance. The largest plane LCY can deal with due to the runway and takeoff and landing angles is the A220 (and one of the smaller variants)

    Gatwick is arguably better access wise for many parts of the south east and London than LHR is. Single seat train ride to Victoria or London Bridge and St Pancras and even towards Cambridge to the north and Brighton to the South. Clapham Junction opens up the South West of England as well.

    Remember BA also has an LGW-JFK service as well.

  8. “We’re excited to return to London Gatwick, which is where we launched our first U.K. destination over 40 years ago”

    Reminded me that I flew from Atlanta to Gatwick in 1985 on a Delta L-1011.

    It was only my second ever flight in First, although it was about as good as Premium Economy is now.

  9. Renting a car in Gatwick was much easier. Unless they have moved, the car rental pickups are on terminal, no annoyingly long bus rides like at Heathrow.

  10. I just flew on both Delta and Virgin Atlantic – Delta from Atlanta to London and Virgin Atlantic on the return. I would say that if they are increasing their transatlantic partnership then they should make their services and products more align. While both flights were nice, the service on Virgin – from the attitude of the FAs to the food option and quality – was much better. While Delta flew a newer plane and had a better PTV overall Virgin was better in my opinion. You can see the full review on my blog.

    Another thing was that my return flight – operated and flown by Virgin – was marketed and advertised with a Delta flight number. Yes I did book the flight on Delta but even on my Virgin Atlantic issued boarding pass it gave me the Delta flight number instead of the Virgin one. It seemed as if it was a Delta flight just operated by Virgin

  11. I thought it was hilarious that Delta’s press release touted Gatwick for anyone visiting Buckingham Palace or Westminster Abbey. That’s crazy. Gatwick is not logical for anyone going to Central London. I also note that Gatwick services will include a 757, which is a 2×2 configuration in business-class. They’re clearly hoping that tourists, global upgrade certificate-redeemers, and Sky Miles award-redemption customers go through Gatwick with their subpar product than fill up seats on flights to Heathrow, which are at a premium in business-class.

    Also, flying in business-class to Manchester makes no sense because Manchester doesn’t have ANY of the premium services that Delta and Virgin Atlantic offers at Heathrow. This includes an arrivals lounge.

  12. If anyone is visiting Buckingham palace direct from the airport Gatwick is the one to pick. 30 mins on the train to Victoria and a short walk round the corner. The jubilee line wouldn’t have got as far a Turnham Green by that point and a it’s a slog from Paddington to the palace.

  13. Central London around St. Paul’s is also significantly easier from Gatwick. Nonstop to City Thameslink or Blackfriars beats slogging though the Tube after the HX.

  14. Given the choice I would fly to Gatwick or even Stansted. I was very disappointed when US airlines stopped serving Gatwick. It’s just a much easier airport to deal with even though it’s further from where I want to go to when I go to England.

  15. With regard to aligning the services, I agree there too. Trying to move from a Delta operated flight to a Virgin one when you have a Delta ticket, is often impossible if you are booked in first class on an award or upgrade. Yet if there is a flight disruption, as there was for me the other day, all of a sudden it’s really easy to do these changes. I wish it were as easy to change to a Virgin operated flight in first class when you arrive early, as it is when there is a disruption

  16. @ ed

    If you’re on a Jubilee line train which passes through Turnham Green, then there is something very wrong with the train you’re on!

    But I agree re: Buckingham Palace and Gatwick, you can walk from Victoria station to the palace.

  17. Gatwick is such a nicer airport than Heathrow so that would always be my preference if available. As a previous person stated getting a rental car there is much easier than at Heathrow. Also, the Gatwick Express takes you into central London in a few minutes, again much easier than getting out of Heathrow.

  18. @Zich – depends on what you value. LHR is a much larger airport with more air connections, and public transit is better at LHR. Car rental at Gatwick is much easier (or was several years ago). LHR has the Heathrow Express into Paddington, Gatwick has the Gatwick Express into Victoria. As a tourist, many sights (Buckingham Palace, St. Pauls, Tower of London and Tower Bridge, etc) are easier from Gatwick. If you are a business traveler, LHR is probably your better bet. Leisure, though, you can make a good argument for LGW – provided your airline flies there.

  19. @ RTBones

    “…public transit is better at LHR”

    Well, yes, it is if, like you, you pretend Thameslink doesn’t exist — a mainline railway that takes you direct from LGW through the very heart of London and carries on to Cambridge or Peterborough, or takes you south to Brighton. There are other direct train services from LGW, including all the way along the south coast to Southampton.

    From Heathrow the mainline train will take you to, er, Paddington, which is pretty much the worst-sited of any of the railway termini that ring central London. And that’s it.

    LGW is currently vastly easier than LHR to get to for swathes of people who live north and east of London.

    Things will rebalance a little when the long-overdue Crossrail (“Elizabeth line”) finally opens at the end of 2020 or, maybe, 2021.

  20. @Airfarer. The Heathrow Express goes into Paddington, which is not as useful as Kings Cross/St Pancras.

  21. Virgin Atlantic’s Gatwick to New York route just seems to be them taking on British Airways on that route. Even though BA is mainly flying this route to compete with Norwegian. Does it make sense? Not really but it does serve a purpose as Virgin try to cement their position as a more exciting alternative to BA and Norwegian at Gatwick.

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