/ Travel & Leisure

Will Virgin’s Little Red flights take off?

Virgin Atlantic plane

Virgin will soon be flying from Heathrow to Edinburgh six times a day. With some flights available for nearly half the price of train tickets, I may be tempted to book next time I head home north of the border…

…and it’s not just because I’ll be served Irn-Bru on the plane!

As from 5 April, Virgin Atlantic will be offering six flights a day from London Heathrow to Edinburgh, followed by a thrice daily Heathrow to Aberdeen service on 9 April.

These two new Scottish routes, along with new flights from London to Manchester, will be Virgin’s first ever domestic flight service – to be known as Little Red. And I’m sure they will be popular among passengers, leisure ones as well as those travelling for business.

Is Virgin’s price right for a short-haul flight?

Taking a quick look at prices for a weekend break in April, I found a return flight from London to Edinburgh with Virgin for just over £98. The same journey on a Virgin train costs £180. Even if you add on additional fares for getting to and from airports, the price still makes the flight attractive. And that’s even before you start comparing journey times. Yes, you need to travel to the airport, and get through security, but a 90 minute flight does sound more inviting than a Friday night train journey of 5 hours 40 minutes.

There are, of course, other flight options available. Looking at the same dates, I found the cheapest flight with EasyJet costs £76. With British Airways, the cheapest available flight was £111.

When Which? Travel compared short-haul airlines, BA did score better than EasyJet, but when it comes to long-haul, Virgin Atlantic is higher up the satisfaction ratings table. So it’ll be interesting to monitor how Virgin does with its new Little Red service, especially as it’s giving passengers free 23kg hold luggage allowance, pre-assigned seats and complimentary snacks and drinks.

Tuck in to Virgin’s airline food

What did make me smile when I saw the press release this week, was that Virgin is planning to serve passengers on its Scottish services ‘Scotland’s other national drink’, otherwise known as Irn Bru. Fellow Scots look away – I don’t really like the orange-coloured fizzy stuff – but it did get me thinking as to what else passengers could be offered. Will crew be offering us Scott’s Porage Oats? What about some Walkers’ highland shortbread, or my particular favourite Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers?

And will it just be on flights to Scotland, or can passengers look forward to similar treats on their way to London? Maybe on you’ll be offered a nice cream tea or cucumber sandwiches, perhaps? Virgin has said it will also have Tyrrells’ ‘plane’ crisps, so maybe the ‘hand-cooked English crisps’ covers that base. I just hope the proposed Krispy Kreme partnership isn’t only for transatlantic trips…


More likely to offer a twin-engined plane
than the one displayed… seems a good

Phil says:
2 March 2013

I once flew from Birmingham to Edinburgh and as well as being a thoroughly squalid experience by the time I’d got myself to and from both airports and got through security etc it really wasn’t any faster than taking the train. No, Virgin would have to offer something remarkable to get me to even think about repeating the experience.

Argonaut:- My flights used clapped out cattle class only 737’s that were obviously unfit for anything else.

I presume that this is part of our effort to use more fuel in the UK and push up prices.

I go to Edinburgh every year for the Fringe, but even though those prices sound decent I definitely won’t be flying. It might be slightly quicker (train is normally around four and a half hours from Kings Cross) and slightly cheaper (though not if you have a railcard and/or book in advance) but you can’t beat the train for comfort and ease. No baggage limits, no security to go through, no transfers between airports and city centres, and great views on the more northerly part of this journey. It’s no contest really.

Bob says:
19 March 2013

It’ll be good for connecting flights.

domhnall dods says:
23 March 2013

I travel to london every week and I definitely look forward to the return of some competition on the route. Ever since BA took over BMI the fares I pay every week have been creeping up. There’s no way I would use the train, I typically have 10am meetings to attend and to get there at that time I’d need to be on a 0540 train which costs a minimum of £199 and would mean leaving home at 0450 (as there are no trains in to the centre of town at that time). Much better to catch the 0630 or even 0720 flight! Train: more comfortable but more expensive and only useful if you have the time to waste.