Virgin Atlantic will be using Barbados as a hub for its expansion into other Caribbean destinations.
Word of this came from Chief Commercial Officer Juha Jarvinen on Tuesday, as the airline celebrates 25 years of flying to Bridgetown from the UK.
Stressing that Barbados has been an important market for the airline and Virgin was willing to continue to serve the destination, he recalled that Barbados was among the top three destinations to which the airline resumed flights following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been proudly rebuilding our Barbados network since the COVID period and we are now serving up to 15 weekly services – 11 to Heathrow and four a week to Manchester,” he said.
“We have now started to sell the local sectors to St Vincent and Grenada, which is another example of the plan that we have to build Barbados as our regional hub. Since June, we have been able to sell the local sectors which will further improve the offering that we have as Virgin Atlantic, but especially to boost Barbados’ economy,” said Jarvinen.
Pointing to the transformation of the company over the past two decades, he said “as part of the network plan, Barbados was never questioned. It has always been within the Caribbean strategy”.
“We do believe that Bridgetown can act as a regional hub for us. That is the reason why we are now selling these local sectors between Barbados and Grenada, and Barbados and St Vincent as a first step. It is to really build that local connectivity option,” he said.
“We do believe that Barbados has, step by step, developed its position in the region and is the strongest island to build that regional hub on and we are committed to continue growing that together with the Barbados Government and the people of Barbados.”
Jarvinen was tight-lipped about what next destinations the airline would fly to out of Barbados. He would only say that hopefully within the next few months, an announcement could be made for 2024/2025.
Virgin Atlantic currently services eight islands in the Caribbean, with two of them through Barbados. It was in June this year that the England-based airline introduced flights from Bridgetown to St Vincent and Grenadines three times a week, and Grenada twice weekly but three times during the winter months.
As part of its 25-year anniversary celebrations, Virgin Atlantic is offering a US$25 discount on economy travel with the airline. Tickets must be booked by October 4 for travel up to the middle of next year.
Chief Product Development Officer with the BTMI Marsha Alleyne thanked officials of Virgin Atlantic for sticking with Barbados for the past two and a half decades, saying the relationship between the airline and the destination had strengthened over the years.
“Throughout the years, we have seen an increase in capacity and provision of new fleets, which has helped in making Barbados a travel hub for the Eastern Caribbean,” she said.
“We are proud to say that during the period January and August 2023, Barbados welcomed over 400 000 visitors to our shores from the United Kingdom, and of that 400 000 visitors, 150 000 of those were out of the UK. This shows that the United Kingdom continues to make up a significant portion of our arrivals and that the demand for destination Barbados continues to be high for our UK market.”
Alleyne said Barbados will continue to collaborate with Virgin Atlantic to continue to make Barbados a year-round destination.