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Aer Lingus expansion plan grounded as Virgin wins Heathrow slots


Plans by Aer Lingus to launch its first domestic British service have been scuppered after Virgin Atlantic was awarded valuable slots at Heathrow that the Irish airline needed.

Aer Lingus and Richard Branson’s Virgin had battled it out to secure control of takeoff and landing slots at Heathrow that were being surrendered by British Airways as one of the conditions for being allowed buy bmi earlier this year.

Aer Lingus and Virgin both wanted to launch a service between Heathrow and Edinburgh to compete against British Airways.

While Aer Lingus already flies between Belfast and London, the route between London and Edinburgh would have been its first service originating and landing within Britain.

Virgin said it plans to launch the service to Edinburgh by March next year – the same timetable that Aer Lingus had hoped to achieve. Aer Lingus was informed last week by the European Commission that it had been ranked second in the competition to get control of the Heathrow slots.

“We have fought hard for the right to fly short haul and take a strong challenge to BA within these shores,” said Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway.

The airline has only recently embarked on the provision of domestic UK routes. It’s also launching a Manchester-Heathrow service next year.