Deon P. Green, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Sir Richard Branson (centre), is flanked by Jamaican models and members of his flight crew during the launch of the airline's inaugural flight last July. - File
Tickets for the new Virgin Atlantic flights into Jamaica, following the sale of Air Jamaica's London route, go on sale this week and passengers will now be able to book their flights directly via Virgin Atlantic Airlines.
In an outline last week of its new services to Kingston, Jamaica, Virgin Atlantic, one of the world's leading long-haul airlines, said it was to expand its services to Jamaica later this year with the launch of new flights between London Gatwick and Kingston, using Virgin's 451-seat Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
The development comes after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Air Jamaica and Virgin Atlantic, and follows Air Jamaica's decision to cease operations to the U.K., allowing Air Jamaica to concentrate on its core routes. Virgin said the new twice-weekly service would start on October 30, and will be in addition to Virgin Atlantic's twice-weekly services between Gatwick and MontegoBay. The new services will double Virgin's capacity between London and Jamaica to 190,000 seats a year.
Kingston will be Virgin Atlantic's 30th destination on its global network and the airline's eighth Caribbean destination. Virgin Atlantic flights will provide a further boost to the region's economy, with tens of thousands of passengers expected to take advantage of the new services.
The schedule released confirms that Virgin Atlantic flight VS69 will leave London Gatwick on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, arriving about midday at Norman Manley International in Kingston, while flight VS70 will depart Kingston on Tuesday and Saturday evenings, arriving at London Gatwick Wednesday and Sunday mornings.
Under Virgin's new code-sharing agreement with Air Jamaica, the airline will place its code on Virgin Atlantic flights operating to and from Kingston, as well as Montego Bay. In turn, Virgin Atlantic will add its VS code to international flights, connecting Air Jamaica flights between Montego Bay and Kingston. The new code-share agreement adds to the existing cooperation between Air Jamaica and Virgin Atlantic, which includes links between the two carriers' frequent-flyer schemes, Seventh Heaven and Flying Club.
To offer comprehensive network
In a press release, chief executive officer of Virgin Atlantic, Steve Ridgway, said his company looked forward "to working more closely with Air Jamaica to develop the routes between London and Jamaica." He continued: "We intend to offer a comprehensive network of connections between our three U.K. airports - Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester - and Jamaica via our U.S. and Caribbean gateways, and in future we will look to build up connecting traffic via Jamaica to other points in the Caribbean region."
Flights between Gatwick and Montego Bay will continue to operate every Monday and Wednesday. Air Jamaica's convenient and frequent flights between Montego Bay and Kingston will give travellers two weekly connecting flight options between Kingston and Gatwick in addition to the new non-stop services. The cooperation between Air Jamaica and Virgin Atlantic will also give travellers heading to Montego Bay a choice of four flights a week, through the code-share connecting flights via Kingston, as well as the non-stop services.