(Refiled to add Reuters Instrument Code for Singapore Airlines)
By Sarah Young
LONDON, Sept 3 British airline Virgin Atlantic
is to beef up its core transatlantic services and stop
flying to Tokyo, Mumbai, Vancouver and Cape Town, to help it try
to reach a level of profitability which has proved elusive for
the past 15 years.
The airline, which is 51 percent owned by its founder
Richard Branson and 49 percent by U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines
, also said on Wednesday it was on track to make an
annual profit by the end of this year, after two years of
running at a loss.
Virgin said by 2018 it was targeting "record" profitability.
The current record was set in 1999 when it posted a pretax
profit excluding special items of around 99 million pounds($163
A joint venture partnership with Delta on transatlantic
services started on Jan. 1, after Delta bought Singapore
Airlines' 49 percent stake in the British carrier for
$360 million in cash last year.
The deal has given Virgin the chance to win more U.S.
customers, due to Delta's domestic U.S. connections, while Delta
gets increased access to the lucrative but restricted London
"Our relationship with Delta ... makes the transatlantic
more attractive than it used to be," Chief Executive Craig
Kreeger said in an interview on Wednesday.
Under the intended network changes, Virgin will fly five
additional daily transatlantic flights from next summer and
Kreeger shrugged off concerns of overcapacity in that market.
"We do see it as intensely competitive but I don't think I
would say that I see it as fundamentally changing in that
regard," he said.
The changes to its route network, combined with the new,
more fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes Virgin is due
to start receiving from next month, and planned upgrades to its
customer offering will help deliver profitability at record
levels on a consistent basis, said Kreeger.
Detailing a plan to win new customers, he said that Virgin
plans to install wifi connectivity on all its aircraft and open
a new Virgin-only lounge in Los Angeles.
The routes to Tokyo, Mumbai, Vancouver and Cape Town that
the company plans to discontinue were "generally speaking"
unprofitable, Kreeger said. Virgin will continue to fly to India
and South Africa, however, on its Delhi and Johannesburg routes.
(1 US dollar = 0.6075 British pound)
(Editing by Kate Holton and Greg Mahlich)