Virgin's Woes

If you read our earlier post about Virgin, none of the following will come as a surprise.

A few days ago, we suggested that Richard Branson’s vitriolic and totally inaccurate comments about British Airways indicated that Virgin itself was in much greater trouble. Branson has past form on this – and silly verbal wars are a sure sign of one of his companies facing a hard time.

The truth has emerged rather faster than we might have expected.

Virgin, like every other airline, is facing a serious slump in revenue. However, what is startling is that its forward bookings are 30% down, compared to just 17% at British Airways.

Most airlines are looking to suspend routes, ground aircraft and make staff redundant but a 14% reduction including – so it is rumoured – 20% of all pilots, is pretty severe.

In other words, Virgin, whose strategy was to cherry-pick profitable routes and Business Class traffic from BA, is suffering more than BA.


Virgin have contacted us to say that their June booking statistics were actually ahead of many of their competitors. Whilst we are happy to include this statement, it should be added that, as a private company, Virgin publishes far less data than the major airlines, so it is much harder to judge where the company stands. We are also rather surprised that the Virgin PR machine has not gone into battle with an American consulting company that produced a much more negative report than our’s.  This has been well-circulated (even appearing on the website of the unofficial Virgin “fan club”, without any comment appearing from Virgin themselves.

(Very) Cheap Business Class to New York

British Airways’ small Business Class-only subsidiary, Open Skies, is having a tough time at the moment. They have a special offer which is bookable until 30th June for return travel to New York from either Amsterdam or Paris for just €800.

Even with the strong Euro, that is still very good value. The Paris flights depart from Orly which makes the Amsterdam route more viable for British passengers. If you can get a cheap return flight from the UK to Amsterdam, you should still save a good deal on any likely fares from the UK.

It is more or less certain that when this “special Birthday offer” expires, they will dream up another excuse to offer some cut-rate deals, so it is worth keeping any eye on their site during the summer.

Economy Fares Won't Stay Low

In the last few months, we have all become so obsessed with the recession and the need for companies to offer bargains to tempt customers, that consumers might be getting a bit complacent.

Sure, the airlines are having a torrid time but the picture is not as simple as has been painted. Some airlines have cut capacity, at least on certain routes, and they are all complaining that numbers and revenue from their premium Business Class passengers are badly down. Many business travellers are still flying, but in Economy, rather than one of the premium cabins. The combination of fewer flights and more passengers looking to travel in Economy is bound to put pressure on fares.

In April, amidst all the doom and gloom, British Airways actually increased the numbers of passengers carried. There was a serious reduction in Business Class passengers but an increase of 5% in Economy.

Of course, there will be some bargains this summer, especially in Business Class, but if you are looking to travel on a popular route, or at a peak time, do not leave it too long expecting the airlines to reduce their fares. Fares increase as seats are sold and there is every chance Economy fares will go up, rather than down.

British Airways 2 for 1 Business Class Offer

This special offer for longhaul flight bookings made over the May Day weekend is certainly one of the best BA have ever come up with. It is not unusual for airlines to suddenly increase fares in the days before promoting a special offer which suddenly reduces the rates again. On this occasion, BA seem to be playing fair and the 2 for 1 prices are a genuine discount on the fares you would expect to pay.

We checked quite a few fares and routes and did find some routes where BA has had slightly better special fares during previous promotions but, with two passengers travelling, there is still a bigger discount with the new promotion.

It is worth remembering that BA have a habit of running special promotions for a few days over holiday weekends. The next UK holiday is 25th May so you might look out for a deal being announced on the Wednesday or Thursday before the weekend. Other airlines are well aware of BA’s habit of promoting deals over long weekends so it is highly likely a few other airlines will announce special deals for the next holiday.

Maybe a new promotion will offer special fares for those buying just one ticket.

If you are interested in the current 2 for 1 deal you have until midnight on 5th May.