Virgin Atlantic chief executive officer Shai Weiss has refused to rule out more consolidation moves after the airline took a stake in Flybe this year as part of a consortium.
Speaking to Bloomberg TV’s Guy Johnson at the World Aviation Festival in London today, Weiss said if there was other opportunities then the airline would take a look.
Virgin Atlantic is part of a consortium called Connect Airways – which also includes Stobart Air, that completed the takeover of cash-strapped regional carrier Flybe earlier this year.
Weiss said the Flybe moved is part of the carrier’s transformation to be more of a network carrier and it increase connectivity into its long-haul network out of Manchester and London Heathrow.
Flybe operates the widest domestic route network in the UK – about 53 per cent of domestic flights – running 190 routes serving 12 countries from 73 departure points in the UK and Europe.
Weiss was also asked whether Virgin Atlantic had ever thought about doing long-haul low-cost services, but he said the airline “ruled it out” as it is not “who we are”.
On consolidation in the industry as a whole, Weiss said in his opinion there will be more consolidation, as some airlines will fall by the wayside as there are “weak players”, but he refused to name who they could be, adding “they know who they are and so do I”.
On general operations, Weiss said the airline was being impacted by China-US trade stand-off and also by Brexit, especially due to the fall in pound, but said the airline’s financial results were strong despite uncertainty.
He also explained that the environment and sustainability and reducing carbon emissions were near the top of the airline’s priorities after safety and security. Investing in new generation long-haul aircraft as Virgin is doing, was a great way for a carrier to reduce carbon emissions, Weiss added.
On the launch of JetBlue into transatlantic routes in 2021, Weiss says Virgin “welcomes competition” and “bring it on”, noting that the London to New York routing is a very competitive route market, and can be very profitable, but not always.
Weiss also talked about the “once in a lifetime opportunity” that the Heathrow third runway expansion project presents and the chance to become the UK’s second flag carrier.
Virgin Atlantic is set to gain more slots at the UK, where it had 30 currently, giving it the opportunity to expand its route network and coverage.