Virgin Atlantic has confirmed it will be offering flights from London Gatwick to the island of Tobago again from March 2015. The airline will resume flights to the southern Caribbean island with one flight a week during summer and two flights a week during the winter after Monarch Airlines pulled its flights this summer as part of its network restructuring.
The UK carrier served the small Caribbean island from London Gatwick in association with a triangle flight also serving Grenada, but the route was switched to a seasonal only operation from winter 2012/2013, returning in winter 2013/2014 as an extension to the carrier’s London Gatwick – St Lucia service. This will also be the case when the flight resumes next year.
"The Caribbean has long been at the heart of our leisure operation and we’re really excited to be offering our customers flights to beautiful Tobago once again," said Joe Thompson, director of network and alliances, Virgin Atlantic.
"We are always looking for opportunities to grow our network and provide our customers with even more travel options and with other operators withdrawing from this route, we believe our new services will be very popular with British holidaymakers," he added.
The mention of other operators withdrawing from the route relates to an announcement from leisure carrier Monarch Airlines that its charter service to Tobago will finish at the end of April 2015. The company has had a long association with the Caribbean island and has been flying there since 2008, operating packages on behalf of the Government of Tobago sold through tour operator, Golden Caribbean.
However, a recent strategic review of all areas of the business and its subsequent transfer of ownership to Greybull Capital LLP. resulted in a decision to cease charter and long-haul flying at the end of winter 2014/15 and concentrate on its ‘heartland’ of scheduled short-haul European leisure routes with increased average frequencies. The A330-200 aircraft which currently operate this service are part of Monarch’s fleet reduction and will leave the fleet at the end of April 2015.
“We are delighted to have supported Tobago’s growth as a leading Caribbean destination over the last six years and we wish the Government of Tobago and the new operators every success for the future. We know the island will continue to be a very popular choice for holiday makers,” said Adrian Tighe, chief commercial officer, Monarch Airlines.
Virgin Atlantic will serve the Tobago market every Sunday during the summer season and on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the winter. It will utilise an Airbus A330-300 on the route, configured with 33 Upper Class, 48 Premium Economy and 185 Economy seats.
In our analysis, below, we look at bi-directional O&D demand between the United Kingdom and Tobago’s A.N.R. Robinson International Airport, which alongside Virgin Atlantic is also served from London by British Airways in combination with its flights to Antigua. The data clearly shows demand has fluctuated massively over the past ten years.