by Marlon Madden
Virgin Atlantic continues to boast of a strong appetite for the Barbados and wider Caribbean market among United Kingdom (UK) and wider European travellers in the face of the persisting COVID-19 pandemic. What is more, Virgin Atlantic’s Country Manager for the Caribbean Hannah Swift has hinted that travellers from some Caribbean countries could have an easier time travelling to the UK, as the airline seeks to expand its partnership with at least one regional airline.
During an update with travel agents on the upcoming winter season, Swift reported that Barbados will soon see 18 Virgin Atlantic flights per week out of the UK as the demand continued to increase. From November 1, flights from London, Heathrow will jump from 7 to 11 times per week; from November 4, flights out of Manchester, England will go from three to five per week; and from December 5, Bridgetown will welcome two flights per week out of Edinburgh, Scotland.
And while the new, leisure Airbus A350 aircraft made its debut visit to Barbados last month, Swift said the 397-seat capacity plane was scheduled for regular service to the island come next year. While giving the assurance that the airline continued to pay special attention to health and safety, Swift declared that “Caribbean flights are very full”, adding that families, friends and groups were seated together.
“There are a lot of people trying to get to the Caribbean right now from the UK, which is great news for us. Our flights into the Caribbean from the UK are booking very quickly. Any of the travel agents will tell you that they are seeing very strong demand for the Caribbean,” she said.
“I think because the US borders remain close to the [majority of] UK travellers and then there is still confusion around the traffic light system and where people can fly and what they need to do to fly. So, the Caribbean is definitely number one destination right for most of our passengers,” said Swift.
She disclosed that Virgin Atlantic was seeking to expand its agreement with at least one regional airline, hinting that a through fare for passengers in countries that the airline does not currently travel directly to from London, could be in the works.
A through fare is described as a ingle ticket for a passenger whose travel involves a connecting flight with another airline. This allows for one price to be paid and baggage to be checked in at the departure and collected at the final destination instead of when the passenger changes flight.
Currently passengers travelling form some Caribbean states including Guyana, have to book tickets separately on the airlines when going to London, since there is not a direct flight from Georgetown to London. Asked if there were plans to have a through fare for travellers in such a situation, Swift would only say “watch this space”, adding that the region could look out for an announcement soon.
“We have an extended inter-airline agreement with Caribbean Airlines. So we do have agreements in place and we are working on a few things behind the scenes that will make the customer experience even better than it already is. Look out for these announcements coming soon,” she said, when pressed.
During the update, Swift noted that in addition to health and safety, Virgin Atlantic was taking a great interest in ensuring that passengers were kept up-to-date with all they needed to know regarding travel guidelines as soon as they booked their flights.
“We are trying to ensure that all our passengers get as much information as much as possible from us
to ensure that the entire journey throughout is as smooth as possible,” she said, as she urged travel agents to ensure that passenger contact information was up-to-date and correct.