Tomorrow, Thursday 24th May, sees our first flight to Vancouver, Canada take off from London Heathrow. The new route will enable Virgin Atlantic to target the expanding tourist market to and from British Columbia, and allow us to play a leading role in strengthening tourist and business ties between the UK and North America.
This route launch comes in a period of growth for Virgin Atlantic in which we have also announced new services to Cancun and Mumbai for later this year, as well as increasing frequency on our routes to Accra, San Francisco and New York.
We’re currently delivering the biggest product investment programme in a decade, which includes a £100m investment in the business class traveller with the new Upper Class Suite, a new fine dining meal service, and a brand new clubhouse at JFK. On the leisure side of the business, we’re undertaking a £60m retro-fit on our 747s based at Gatwick.
As far as our new route goes, the North American market has always been at the core of our business and Vancouver is a fantastic new destination that we’re all really excited about. We’ve had lots of customers asking us to fly to Vancouver over the years, so we’re delighted to launch this new route in response to that demand.
We’re expecting to carry approximately 40,000 passengers on the Heathrow to Vancouver route in its first season alone, and more than 20,000 bookings have already been made. More than 700,000 people travelled from the UK to Canada in 2010, and the UK is the largest overseas market for passengers to British Columbia.
Our inaugural flight tomorrow will see our lucky #whyYVR winner Christina Hegele (owner of the popular travel blog Jandal Road) and a host of journalists and VIPs take to the skies for Vancouver. We’ll be treating them to the very best of what the city has to offer, from luxury spas to lake canoe trips and waterfall explorations – and that’s all before the launch party even gets underway. If they still have the energy, there’ll be plenty more to follow, with opportunities for golf, craft beer tours, kayaking, cycling tours and sea safaris laid on.