Virgin Atlantic could use spare aircraft that have been freed up from its decision to drop direct flights between London and Pakistan to launch a new route to the South Korean capital, Seoul. The official announcement, if the rumours are to be believed, could come as early as next month.
While Seoul might not seem like the most obvious of new destinations for Virgin Atlantic, given its westward North American and Caribbean focus, the rumours of a new Fast East route aren’t without merit.
The basis of the speculation comes from the fact that Virgin Atlantic is about to join the Skyteam airline alliance, and one of the main benefits of being in an alliance is, of course, the opportunity to form new partnerships that might not previously have been possible or even made sense.
In this case, Virgin Atlantic could be about to embark on a codeshare deal with fellow Skyteam member Korean Air on the London <-> Seoul route, and the route might even be announced on March 2 when Virgin Atlantic officially joins Skyteam.
Korean Air is looking for a codeshare partner in order to get its planned acquisition of fellow South Korean airline Asiana past regulators. Competition watchdogs in several countries, including the UK, have raised concerns about the merger over fears that consumers will be hurt by a lack of competition on Seoul-bound flights.
Late last year, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said the merger risked “higher prices and a reduced quality of service for passengers” and issued Korean Air with an ultimatum to resolve these concerns or face greater scrutiny over the deal.
European antitrust regulators have also recently raised similar worries about the deal.
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have a huge amount of spare capacity to start launching new routes but the airline did recently announce it was dumping flights to Islamabad and Lahore following a complete review of its network that was undertaken ahead of joining Skyteam.
Last year, sources close to the airline denied there were any ‘immediate’ plans to launch flights to Seoul but Virgin Atlantic declined to officially comment on the rumours.
Last November, South Korea’s official Yonhap news agency, however, appeared to accidentally let the cat out of the bag by revealing the deal that had been struck between flag carrier Korean Air and Virgin Atlantic.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.