Virgin wins Heathrow slots and targets Scotland

LONDON Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:44am GMT

A Virgin aircraft is seen on the ground after making an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport in southern England April 16, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

A Virgin aircraft is seen on the ground after making an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport in southern England April 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Virgin Atlantic has won all of the London Heathrow take-off and landing slots that British Airways was forced to give up after the acquisition of bmi, and it aims to use them to compete on flights to Scotland.

The airline, which has long wanted to compete head-to-head with British Airways (BA) on short-haul domestic flights, said on Monday it planned to run multiple daily flights from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Heathrow using the new slots.

Richard Branson's airline first announced plans to compete with BA on domestic routes in August, when it said it would operate three daily flights from London's Heathrow to Manchester from March 2013.

The addition of the new slots, which became available following the acquisition of bmi by BA's owner IAG, gives Virgin Atlantic additional firepower.

"We have fought hard for the right to fly short haul and take a strong challenge to British Airways within these shores," said Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Steve Ridgway.

"Passengers can look forward to a great short haul service with us but most importantly reap the benefits from the re-injection of vital competition we can provide on these routes."

Rivalry between Virgin Atlantic, which is part-owned by Singapore Airlines, and BA dates back more than 20 years to the so-called "dirty tricks" affair, when Virgin accused BA of conducting a smear campaign.

That ended with BA being forced to make a public apology and pay damages to Branson and Virgin. There have since been price wars, allegations of price-fixing and public rows over the size of passenger beds.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Cowell)