By Benjamin Pham
Virgin Atlantic and Middle East Airlines Formulate Codeshare Agreement
The transatlantic air travel corridor between the U.S. and Europe continues to be known for its reputation of being cutthroat and popular as the demand for long-haul air travel surges. Several major airlines inaugurate new routes while firmly resuming flights on key routes across the pond to attract as many passengers as possible. Major airlines also utilize codeshare agreements to increase route connectivity and expand market presence to be more competitive. Virgin Atlantic is one of many major carriers that flies along the transatlantic air travel corridor and recently announced its brand new codeshare through London’s Heathrow Airport.
The British airline recently announced its unilateral, interline codeshare agreement with Middle East Airlines – a member of the SkyTeam airline network. Within the codeshare agreement, Virgin Atlantic plans to expand its business and leisure partnership, which will increase connectivity with Lebanon and the Beirut-based carrier.
As we recover from the pandemic, partnerships are more important than ever, and we look forward to building on the incredibly successful interline relationship we have had in place for a number of years,” Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, said.“With a large diaspora population of Lebanese living in the US, this new partnership aims to respond to the large, fast-growing demand to visit friends and relatives as people start to travel to visit their loved ones post Covid-19.”
Meanwhile, the Lebanese airline plans to use this codeshare as an opportunity to capture as much of the American travel market that remains and connect the U.S. to Lebanon through a number of different routes.
“Our interline relationship with Virgin Atlantic was the first to target the US travel market to Beirut, and so it is natural for us to partner with Virgin Atlantic and build the first US codeshare agreement targeting Beirut,” Walid Abillama, Head of Commercial Strategy and Alliances at Middle East Airlines, said.
Transatlantic, long-haul continue to rise, and as the U.K. continues to modify and adjust its list of countries whose travelers or citizens can enter the country without stringent requirements and quarantine. In response, Virgin Atlantic increased flight frequencies and resumed operations to the Caribbean as travel demand for warm destinations surged.
Flights from the U.K. to Antigua, Barbados and Grenada resumed in Mid-July. The airline scheduled three weekly flights to Antigua and daily flights to Barbados, while flights to the island of Grenada operate twice a week.
Jarvinen said, “There’s long been pent up demand to travel so we’re excited that we can finally whisk our customers away for a much-needed sunny break, with even more available flight options, allowing them to enjoy the stunning beaches, warm climate and welcoming hospitality that the Caribbean has buckets of.”
Evidently, Virgin Atlantic has its grasp on the transatlantic air travel market where several major airlines are vying to maximize load factor and revenue while minimizing costs between their hubs and key cities. Undoubtedly, passengers are eager to travel as long-awaited border closures like the U.K. reopen. However, it is important for Virgin Atlantic to continue evaluating its strategies for rebuilding its route network to accommodate increased connectivity in the post-Covid-19 world.