Virgin Atlantic drops Hong Kong route after nearly 30 years

Airline says Ukraine war has affected commercial operations

Virgin Atlantic Airways says it will cease its flights to Hong Kong, due in part to the war in Ukraine. AP
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Virgin Atlantic on Wednesday decided to suspend its Heathrow-Hong Kong services, close its Hong Kong office and not resume flights in March 2023, after 30 years in the Asian city due to issues related to the closure of Russian airspace.

Moscow's invasion of Ukraine has led several airlines, which were already reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, to suspend flights and plan longer routes to avoid Russian and Ukrainian airspace.

"Significant operational complexities due to the ongoing Russian airspace closure have contributed to the commercial decision not to resume flights in March 2023 as planned," the airline founded by billionaire Richard Branson said.

Virgin Atlantic had halted flights to Hong Kong since December last year and several airlines have not routed flights through Russia's airspace after the invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re very sorry for the disappointment caused to our loyal customers on this route and anyone booked to travel from March 2023 will be offered a refund, voucher or the option to rebook on an alternative Virgin Atlantic route,”​ Virgin said.

It explained that “significant operational complexities due to the ongoing Russian airspace closure have contributed to the commercial decision not to resume flights in March 2023 as planned”.

Virgin told trade members in a separate message that the Hong Kong route was on a trend of declining profitability, even before the pandemic.

“We’re constantly reviewing the performance of our network and as part of our long term strategy of being sustainably profitable,” the airline said in a memo to corporate customers seen by Bloomberg.

Virgin said it is "committed to only flying profitable routes” and still intended to resume flights to Shanghai.

Updated: October 05, 2022, 5:43 PM
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