Virgin Atlantic will no longer support Heathrow expansion

At today’s Airlines 2022 conference in London, Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Shai Weiss, backed down on the expansion of Britain’s biggest airport. Notably, Weiss no longer supports the controversy third runway construction. Let’s take a closer look at Weiss’s arguments against expanding capacity at London Heathrow (LHR)

No third runway until Heathrow sheds its monopolistic features

At this year’s Airlines 2022 conference in London, Virgin Atlantic for the first time refused to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport. Given this, the move may come as a surprise Richard BransonRussian Airlines has always supported the controversial third runway at Heathrow. So what could have changed Weiss’ position?


First, the airline’s chief executive opposes Heathrow’s proposal to increase boarding fees by a whopping 120%. Virgin Atlantic’s CEO has appealed directly to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), suggesting that he should watch for abuses of power by what Weiss describes as a monopolistic airport.

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Last summer, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority did allow London Heathrow to raise boarding fees by 56% in 2023, to more than £30 ($35.47) per passenger. However, the CAA also ruled that London’s busiest airport, home to British Airways, had to reduce the charge to £26.31 (US$31.10) by 2026. While it is a well-received proposal by Heathrow’s investors, one of which includes the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar and China, Weiss called the proposal to increase boarding fees bad for customers, airlines and the UK economy. In addition, Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive highlighted the negative impact the proposal would have on the entire aviation sector, saying:

“If we want a globally competitive aviation sector [the increased landing charges] just don’t let that happen”

As a second argument, Weiss cited Heathrow’s flawed demand forecast for the summer of 2022, which led to endless delays and cancellations that undermined passenger confidence in the airport and the airlines that serve it. The crisis forced Heathrow to limit the number of passengers to 100,000 a day, accusing airlines of not planning enough staff to handle all flights. Unacceptable behavior on the part of the UK’s largest airport which does not deserve support for further capacity expansion.

Airbus A350-1041 G-VJAM Virgin Atlantic

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Addressing the Civil Aviation Authority, Mr. Weiss continued his criticism of the current regulatory framework, suggesting that it should more evenly balance the interests of both airports and passengers. In his opinion, London Heathrow should become an affordable airport open to visitors competition, and one that is constantly working to deliver high quality for airlines and their passengers, rather than focusing on increasing dividends for shareholders. Until these conditions are met, it is unlikely that Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive will support further expansion of London’s biggest airport.

As well as openly calling for Heathrow to become a more competitive airport, Mr Weiss also made a rather bold request to support Virgin Atlantic: a “massive redevelopment” of Heathrow’s Terminal 3, home to the red and white carrier. In response, a representative of Heathrow said that the renovation of Terminal 3 or the move to the newer Terminal 2 is already included in the airport’s medium-term plans.

Boeing 777-200(ER) N786AN American Airlines (2)

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Virgin Atlantic is going all-in on Heathrow

While Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive was highly critical of London Heathrow today, the carrier also announced its desire to focus its operations from London’s busiest airport. This means Virgin Atlantic has no plans to return to London Gatwick. At least in the near future.

Virgin Atlantic was the first to concentrate all operations from London Heathrow during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, such a move turned out to be very strategic, allowing the carrier to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Notably, Virgin Atlantic benefits from a high percentage of connecting passengers at Heathrow. Indeed, at Gatwick, connecting passengers make up only 10% of the total traffic.

But why mine communication became so important to Virgin Atlantic? The answer lies in the carrier’s recent joining of the SkyTeam alliance. Having become a member of one of the world’s three airline alliances, Virgin Atlantic now needs to adapt its strategy to that of a network carrier. However, Brendan’s airline does not operate feeder flights to London, as it only operates long-haul flights. So Virgin Atlantic is to be trusted SkyTeam partners such as Air France and KLM to provide feeder traffic for their London operations. Therefore, connectivity has become a key word in Virgin Atlantic’s network strategy. And no one can deny that Heathrow is the best airport in the UK where possible.

Airbus A350-1041 G-VPOP Virgin Atlantic

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

What do you think of Virgin Atlantic’s change in position on Heathrow’s third runway? Let us know by clicking the comment button below!

  • Airbus A350-1041 Virgin Atlantic (2)

    Virgin Atlantic

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline type:
    A full-service carrier

    London Heathrow Airport

    Year of foundation:
    1984 year

    General Director:
    Shai Weiss

    United Kingdom

https://simpleflying.com/virgin-atlantic-heathrow-expansion/ Virgin Atlantic will no longer support Heathrow expansion

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