Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Executive, Craig Kreeger, expressed optimism that a deal would be struck to secure Britain’s flying rights after the UK leaves the European Union in March of 2019.
Kreeger made the comments as the airline launched an extra legroom economy seat to try and separate itself from the rest of the competition.
British airlines are seeking a way to continue to benefit from EU flying rights after Brexit, and the British government has announced it is exhausting efforts to secure an open-access arrangement.
Kreeger said he believed Britain would be successful in obtaining a deal akin to its current one under the European Union-United States Open Skies agreement.
“I’ve heard from both governments, I remain completely confident that we’re on track, to work, through whatever it takes to have, to be able to fly, in an Open Skies-like way,” Kreeger said.
Virgin Atlantic recently announced that it would revamp the cabins of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to provide passengers with a new type of economy seat with legroom of 34 inches, which is larger than the 31-inch economy offering.
Also announced during the event by Virgin was that it would also offer an “economy light” ticket that excludes checked luggage.
The new features is part of the carrier’s bid to stand out in what is increasingly becoming a tough trans-Atlantic market, with budget airlines such as Norwegian Air Shuttle, Canada’s Westjet and Iceland’s Wow Air all ramping up their expansion efforts between North America and Europe.
“There isn’t any question that trans-Atlantic flying has been changing over the last few years and being able to offer a new lower fare is something we think will enhance our ability to compete,” Kreeger stated.
IAG, the owner of Virgin’s age-old rival British Airways, is also muscling in on the competition, heading a low-cost long-haul unit called Level last year, while Lufthansa has also been expanding its Eurowings brand, and U.S. carriers have offered fares that exclude baggage or seat selection.
Virgin said the process of refitting its cabins was already underway and the expenses that come with taking out six seats to make space for the new bigger leg room economy class was “not material.”
The new 34-inch legroom seat on Virgin would provide passengers with an option in between economy and Virgin’s premium economy seat.