This was first rumored a couple of weeks ago, and has now been officially confirmed.
Virgin Atlantic adds London to Tampa route
As of November 3, 2022, Virgin Atlantic will be launching year-round flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and Tampa (TPA). The flight will initially operate 4x per week, and then it will operate daily as of November 28, 2022.
The flight is expected to go on sale as of July 13, 2022, and will operate with the following schedule:
VS129 London to Tampa departing 1:25PM arriving 6:35PM
VS130 Tampa to London departing 8:50PM arriving 10:15AM (+1 day)
The 4,411-mile flight is blocked at 10hr10min westbound and 8hr35min eastbound. Virgin Atlantic intends to use a Boeing 787-9 for the route, featuring 258 seats. This includes 31 business class seats, 35 premium economy seats, and 192 economy seats.
This will be Virgin Atlantic’s third destination in Florida, as the airline flies up to 4x daily to Orlando, and up to 2x daily to Miami.
My take on Virgin Atlantic adding Tampa flights
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 (though many also love coming to Florida in summer, for reasons I can’t quite wrap my head around)
- Tampa Bay (including St. Petersburg and Clearwater) has a total catchment area of around five million people
- 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’m curious to see if British Airways responds to this development by moving its Tampa service to London Heathrow, since that’s much better for connectivity. Otherwise Virgin Atlantic will have the advantage for long haul connectivity to destinations like India, Israel, South Africa, etc.
Virgin Atlantic will be launching daily year-round flights between London Heathrow and Tampa as of this winter. This is an exciting development for Tampa Airport, as I never thought I’d see the day. Now here’s to hoping that British Airways moves its Tampa flight to Heathrow as well, to better enable connections.
What do you make of Virgin Atlantic launching Tampa flights?
Positive development. BA will have to move its service to Heathrow or the Gatwic flight will disappear. Both can not sustain itself.Tampa is not large enough for both. Similar is the Washington D C area but BWI is the growing airport the busiest of all three D c area airports. Dulles attempting to pull political strings to keep its hold on international routes from going over to BWI the peoples choice.
As far as I am aware, as a Tampa resident, I am told it is not going to be the dreamliner that they are going to be using. They are going to be using the Airbus with the tired ole herringbone pattern. They STILL haven't gotten right of that awful configuration after what? 15 years of being told it is a crappy configuration.... still, that moan aside, glad to see I won't have to go through Atlanta anymore. Great airport, but immigration? Yuck.
My partner's family live around St Petersburg and Sarasota so we take the BA flight several times each year. Gatwick is better than Heathrow for us, but any competitive impact on fares would make a big difference so this is welcome. My experience of Virgin is just that bit better as well. BA has operated a 777 the last few times, and I understand the 787 is more efficient. It's a while since I've flown...
My partner's family live around St Petersburg and Sarasota so we take the BA flight several times each year. Gatwick is better than Heathrow for us, but any competitive impact on fares would make a big difference so this is welcome. My experience of Virgin is just that bit better as well. BA has operated a 777 the last few times, and I understand the 787 is more efficient. It's a while since I've flown on one: any views on comparative comfort?
And as a Brit who comes to FL in summer as well as winter, I have to say if I didn't love my partner's family as much as I do you could only get me there between May and September by giving me lots and lots of $$$ to take part in a contest to find the grumpiest Englishman in the Tampa Bay area.
I wonder which airside they will use in Tampa? Delta has a Skyclub in E, and you would think VS would want premium customers to have club access (which they would get from the VS-DL partnership), but only airside F has customs... I think when DL had TPA-AMS it departed from E but arrived at F. Similar arrangement here?
This is great news especially combined with Virgin’s announcement about dedicated award seats….now if they could just do something about the taxes…..
Agggh! Those horrible seats (as pictured) engulfed in dark purple lighting sets the scene for a flight to hell IMHO!
Hello ! Europe ! Tampa/St.Pete/Clearwater Calling. Talking to YOU AF/LH/IB maybe SK... WE ARE HERE ! We have business and money. FLY here !!
As a TPA-based flyer, I've long wanted the BA flight to move over to Heathrow. While FL is obviously a big leisure destination for Brits, it is also a growing business city, and I would bet that there would be more ex-TPA connecting demand than many might realize. I often find myself flying down to MIA when a TPA-LHR flight would avoid this.
Wonderful news. With more long haul travel coming to TPA, it’s time for a dedicated contract lounge in the F terminal.
BA will have done there research, Tampa is mainly a leisure route from London - most passengers will be point-to-point, there will be minimal transfer pax which is why they use Gatwick saving a precious Heathrow slot pair for a more profitable route.
One small correction. Virgin Atlantic flies more than 4x daily to Orlando on some days. They have up to 2x daily flights to both LHR and MAN, and they have some flights a week (not daily) to Belfast and Glasgow. So they have up to 5 or 6 flights a day from MCO (and used to be up to 7x flights a day pre-pandemic -with 6 of them on their leisure configured 747's - when they made LGW 3x daily on peak days with an additional A330 service).
That's pretty impressive for an airline as small as Virgin Atlantic to have that kind of frequency into Orlando!
But it’s not shocking. Brits LOVE Disney and they go in masses. Virgin is the perfect airline to serve the market
Virgin also flew to Edinburgh from MCO at one point, so they had 8 flights out of MCO on some days pre-pandemic (I believe it was on Saturdays). You could see up to 5 Virgin 747's at MCO at once. I once saw 6 when one of the earlier flights was delayed. Given that Virgin only had 8 747-400's, on some days 7 of them would be flying to Orlando. Virgin had a bigger base at MCO
With most of my fellow countrymen living in Sarasota and in excess of 450k expats living in Florida or having second homes their I am pretty sure they will do ok on this new route.
What carriers have the most market share in Tampa?
With American entrenched in Miami, I would have expected one of UA or DL to try to establish a focus city / hub somewhere in Florida. Tampa, Orlando, FLL all options.
Tampa International Airport recent market share report. Southwest 25%. American & Delta each at 17%.
At the moment, TPA is a bit of a mixed bag among DL, AA, UA & NK with DL and AA essentially tied among the legacies. WN leads the way though, which obviously isn’t any help to Virgin.
Here’s an annoying chart with their numbers:
Northwest had a small hub in TPA way back in the day, didn't last though.
UA tried a secondary hub in MIA all the way through 2001, but could never gain much marketshare.
DL also tried to build up a focus at MIA, and at one point were flying RJs intra-Florida and to other destinations from there, as well as mainline to Cuba, but pulled back.
DL also used to have a DL-Cnnx hub at MCO, alongside several longhaul nonstops to Brazil, but that didn't last either.
Lucky don’t Edelweiss now fly the a340 from Zurich to Tampa International rather than Miami? They were cheaper tickets than Swiss pre pandemic, but now I see little difference in price between the tickets on Swiss to Miami and the leisure division across the cabins.
They still do, but it’s not daily (as it isn’t the FRA-TPA on Eurowings). Edelweiss was never priced cheap. TPA and MIA are two totally different markets. Throw in the mix RSW (also not daily) and MCO and you have quite a few chances to get yourself to Europe from Florida.