Virgin Atlantic to stop flights to Mumbai
Mumbai: Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways has been forced to slam the brakes on its Mumbai-London operations from May thanks to a double whammy of the economic slowdown and excess capacity. This is the fourth international airline in the last year alone to cease operations from the city.
“We have decided to temporarily suspend operations to Mumbai with effect from May 4. We are suspending this service until rational conditions re-emerge and it can resume service on this important route,” confirmed Neha Lidder Ganju, Senior Marketing Manager- India, Virgin Atlantic Airways.
The exact number of job cuts could not be ascertained but the company has said that its cabin crew, airport staff and cargo staff would be affected as a result.
Virgin Atlantic has stated that while it performed satisfactorily in its first three years, the overall traffic between Heathrow and Mumbai fell 18 per cent last year. In addition, there was an “irrational level” of capacity on the route. “As a result, Virgin Atlantic and presumably other carriers have been losing money. This would be unsustainable at the best of times, but is ruinous in current conditions,” the carrier said in an email response.
The airline operates daily direct flights from both Mumbai and Delhi to Heathrow. The Delhi link will remain intact as it has not been hit by idle capacity and still remains sustainable.
Virgin’s exit comes at a time when Indian carriers such as the state-owned Air India as well as private airlines such as Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines are aggressively pursuing their international operations, especially to European and South Asian destinations.