Whoa: Virgin Atlantic Could Launch Tampa Flights?!

Whoa: Virgin Atlantic Could Launch Tampa Flights?!

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While nothing has been announced yet, this has me very excited as someone who grew up in Tampa…

Virgin Atlantic plans London to Tampa route

London Heathrow Airport is heavily slot controlled, and airlines have to file in advance for the routes that they intend to operate. As noted by the always observant @IshrionA, London Heathrow Airport’s Initial Coordination Report for the winter season shows Virgin Atlantic launching a new flight between London Heathrow (LHR) and Tampa (TPA).

Based on the filing, the flight would operate daily using a 258-seat Boeing 787-9, featuring business class, premium economy, and economy. Based on the filing, Virgin Atlantic plans to offer a total of 75,852 seats in the market, which translates to a total of 294 frequencies. So that would be 147 frequencies in each direction, or around five months of service.

How certain is it that this route will launch?

  • The fact that Virgin Atlantic filed for this route in the winter schedule suggests the airline is at least seriously considering operating this
  • While I don’t think it’s a sure bet this will happen, I’d say odds of this launching are well over 50%, especially since it kind of fits into the big picture of passenger demand

Now we’ll just have to wait for an official announcement. If this does come to fruition, I imagine it will be announced soon, so that flights can be put on sale.

Virgin Atlantic could launch Tampa flights this winter

My take on Virgin Atlantic adding Tampa flights

As mentioned above, I grew up in Tampa, and traveled a lot out of the airport. So I always get excited when I see growth at the airport.

For as long as I can remember, British Airways has flown to Tampa, and back in the day it was the airport’s only long haul flight. While that’s great, the issue is that the flight operates to London Gatwick (LGW), so it’s not ideal for those looking to connect beyond the UK (British Airways doesn’t operate many short haul routes out of the airport).

Since then, Tampa has seen quite a bit of international growth. There have been some short haul services, like Copa to Panama City, Cayman Airways to Grand Cayman, etc. But we’ve also seen Lufthansa and its subsidiaries (currently Eurowings Discover) operate a service to Frankfurt (FRA).

Virgin Atlantic adding service to Tampa seems logical enough to me:

  • Virgin Atlantic is in a transatlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM and Delta, so this would give that joint venture direct transatlantic service to Tampa; Delta started Tampa to Amsterdam flights before the pandemic, but those haven’t returned yet
  • Florida has nice weather in winter, and Brits sure do love warm weather
  • British Airways has done really well with its London service, and Norwegian even planned London to Tampa flights, but then ended up terminating all long haul routes

I think odds of this happening are good, and I’m looking forward to it!

Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787-9 business class

Bottom line

While it remains to be seen if this flight becomes a reality, Virgin Atlantic has filed to launch a flight between London Heathrow and Tampa for this winter. Now we just have to wait to see if the airline actually announces this flight. Virgin Atlantic would be the second airline to fly between the two cities, though British Airways’ flight is out of London Gatwick.

What do you make of Virgin Atlantic launching Tampa flights? Do you think it will happen?

Conversations (21)
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  1. PJ Guest

    My parents live in the Tampa Bay Area, so this would be welcome news to me! Visiting mom and dad before a flight is great! Plus parking and airport rides are nice too ;). I don’t really understand why so many British people come to SW Florida but hey they’re welcome.

  2. Steve Holst Guest

    I’m so excited if Virgin comes to Tampa. Such a demand between both cities. The Brits love Tampa /St. Pete. I will use both airlines to London.

    1. Steve Holst Guest

      Just to say again, Tampa is growing in by leaps and bounds. We need more international nonstop routes. Virgin would put the icing on the cake. They wouldn’t be wanting to add a route if there weren’t a demand. I fly back and forth myself to London on the British Airways 777.
      Actually, before British Airways started flying into Tampa. Arrow Air was the first Tampa to London flight, then Laker Airways, British Caledonian....

      Just to say again, Tampa is growing in by leaps and bounds. We need more international nonstop routes. Virgin would put the icing on the cake. They wouldn’t be wanting to add a route if there weren’t a demand. I fly back and forth myself to London on the British Airways 777.
      Actually, before British Airways started flying into Tampa. Arrow Air was the first Tampa to London flight, then Laker Airways, British Caledonian. Then British Airways. I recently saw a Latam wide body at TPA I wonder what that was about. I will be at TPA for Virgins first landing. Finnair needs to open a route to Tampa. The Scandinavians love it here too.
      We welcome Virgin.

    2. Steven Larson Guest

      The LATAM Widebody was a diversion from Miami

  3. Glyn Owen Guest

    Norwegian operated flights to Tampa from London for years.

  4. Pops Guest

    Hope this happens. We found Tampa to be one if the easiest and friendlies airports to fly from/to. Immigration queues at MIA suck and having the baggage pickup at MCO in the satellite is just awkward.

  5. Daniel Nettuno Guest

    This is very exciting indeed. I worked for VS back in the 90’s when IAD service started and it is still going strong. Virgin is clearly looking for new markets and this would be a great addition to their MCO service. I’d love to see them keep it year even if it did a triangle MCO-TPA-LHR in the summer months. Tampa needs this service and any news of international flying is very exciting!

  6. David S Guest

    Sadly it’s getting way too expensive for Brits to holiday in the USA - the fx rate and general cost increases make it so expensive. I can’t afford holidays like I had there some 5 to 20 years ago

  7. Alex Guest

    If they do this in the winter, it probably makes sense for Brits (although why fly to the US and deal with US prices if they can just go to the Caribbean) but will make little sense for the traffic in the other direction.

  8. Bryan Downey Guest

    FWIW…Norwegian actually did have TPA-LGW service a few days a week for a little while before the pandemic.

    1. Glyn Owen Guest

      At least three years.

  9. TheTruthIs Guest

    I hope it happens soon. I live in St Pete and am trying to burn Virgin Atlantic points. I'm done with them and their surcharges. I finally burned all my BA Avios and/or transferred them to Iberia. I think VS and BA suck. Their game with vouchers and holding your taxes and fees until you book them again is very unfriendly. Since it's not very easy at this time to rebook with miles.

  10. Eli Guest

    Ben I flew Virgin Atlantic last week, and I had a conversation with one of the flight attendants, which told me that they are getting a new business class seat on their Airbus A330 in the next few months.
    Have you heard anything about it?

    1. Bob Guest

      Oh, I sure hope so. Those "flipperoo" biz seats in the 787-9 and A330 are the absolute worst. I hate the flipping feature, the lack of storage, and the fact that the seats face away from the window. Their A350 biz seat is only slightly better (as there is no silly flipperoo feature). There is no space to keep my hands at my side, and I am quite slender.

    2. Creditcrunch Diamond

      There was a VS press release at the time when the order was placed that the A330 Neos would feature a new Upper Class product along the lines of the A350 offering, this new seat was also slated to be retrofitted on the B787 but I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

  11. Kirsten Reckman Guest

    Living in South Tampa, I’m thrilled with this possibility. They’ve brought back 6 Caribbean flights and the BA one. And eurowings is doing a wet lease with FinnAir for the FRA flight. I’m hopeful to see more int’l come back so we don’t have to go elsewhere for a long haul!

    1. Sarah Guest

      I flew home from FRA yesterday on the FinnAir/discover flight after my united flight was canceled. It was a GREAT flight. I was skeptical but I definitely recommend this service!

  12. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    I wonder where the slots are coming from to operate this?

    Did DL/VS get any of the Aeroflot slots, or is this coming at the cancellation of something else?

    1. Jim Guest

      My first guess: VA previously operated daily service to Beijing, and they're probably projecting that won't resume before next spring. Which is probably realistic under the circumstances.

      My second guess: There are unused slots in the winter season. (We often overlook that slots are technically seasonal, not year-round.) In this case, the question would be, where's the plane coming from? Since presumably they have a fixed airplane:slot ratio.

    2. Matthew Bartlett Guest

      It does appear VS has received some of Aeroflots slots along with Jetblue, Vistara, Westjet, Avianca and China Airlines.

    3. Creditcrunch Diamond

      The VS LHR-HAV has been suspended, the double daily LHR-SFO is reducing to 1 daily for the winter season so there is some capacity available.

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Creditcrunch Diamond

The VS LHR-HAV has been suspended, the double daily LHR-SFO is reducing to 1 daily for the winter season so there is some capacity available.

1
Matthew Bartlett Guest

It does appear VS has received some of Aeroflots slots along with Jetblue, Vistara, Westjet, Avianca and China Airlines.

1
Kirsten Reckman Guest

Living in South Tampa, I’m thrilled with this possibility. They’ve brought back 6 Caribbean flights and the BA one. And eurowings is doing a wet lease with FinnAir for the FRA flight. I’m hopeful to see more int’l come back so we don’t have to go elsewhere for a long haul!

1
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