Virgin Atlantic recently celebrated 18 years of its operation in India since it launched its first flight from India on July 5, 2000 from New Delhi to London. Since then, Virgin Atlantic has welcomed over three million customers on board. T3 talks to David Hodges, Country Manager at Virgin Atlantic, India to understand the performance in India market.
You have completed 18 years in India. How has the journey been so far?
It has been an exciting and adventurous journey for Virgin Atlantic and Indian customers as well to try and get a fly on an airline with vibrancy. It’s been a great journey and the future is going to be even more exciting. We are looking what more we could more in India and how we can make our experiences for our customers in India even better.
What is your expansion strategy?
This is really exciting time for VA in India. The growth in this market is massive. The domestic market is very strong and the international market is also growing at good rate. We are thinking how much convenience we can give to Indian customers. We are expanding and enhancing and thinking how we can we give more choices to Indian customers. We have a code share agreement with Jet Airways. We see really good growth in Indians travelling from Mumbai to US on Jet Airways. We are also looking at how we can tap the potential of more destinations in India. There is tremendous growth from cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and others. Hence, VA is also actively looking and considering as it is going to be an exciting future.
In short term, we are looking at strengthening the partnerships. How do we work better with Jet Airways? How do we deliver onward connectivity from Delhi and Mumbai and this is the big part of our expansion as of now. We are looking at how we deliver onward connections to more cities in India. In medium terms, we are optimistic about what we can do about this market.
What is the percentage of traffic that flies with you beyond your hub in London?
We are taking large number of people to US from Mumbai. One can now connect to Virgin services from all over India through our partnership with Jet Airways, and reach destinations all over the UK and USA connecting with Flybe and Delta Air Lines. We are the most preferred for Indians to fly to Scotland. We also have JFK and both west and east coast from Heathrow. We are starting a Boston-Heathrow service and we also announced to starting Las Vegas service giving passengers more options in US. The great thing about the UK transit system is that you do not need the transit visa if you are transiting within 24 hours. I see a huge growth opportunity in India.
How has the occupancy and yield been?
We have been witnessing over 80 per cent and it looks really positive. We also have yielding traffic. We offer the best experience. The Delhi route is as popular as ever among Indian customers who love the great Indian food, the latest Bollywood films, interacting with our Indian crew and using our in-flight Wi-Fi to stay connected with their families as they travel. It’s also a time of tremendous growth for Virgin Atlantic in India.
You have announced of launching corporate programme for SMEs?
We launched a new reward programme with additional rewards called FlyingCo for SMEs. A free-to-join rewards programme, businesses will earn FlyingCo miles on all aspects of business travel like flights, home stays, foreign exchange, in addition to FlyingClub miles that individual travellers earn being part of the regular loyalty programme. Over the next few weeks, we will be out talking to SMEs. This is really exciting product. We are entrepreneurial airline and India is full of entrepreneurs.