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Virgin announces new flights from Las Vegas to England

Updated June 11, 2024 - 9:07 am

A new airline route between Manchester, England, and Las Vegas brought an unlikely guest to Las Vegas this week: Sir Richard Branson.

The Virgin Group founder and CEO came to the region this week to highlight Virgin Atlantic’s recently launched long-haul flight between the U.K. and Sin City – its second to the area – and to celebrate the airline’s 40th anniversary.

“Las Vegas (has) many, many happy memories as I’m sure other people do, and maybe some not-that-happy memories,” he joked.

Virgin Atlantic restarted its nonstop service between Harry Reid International Airport and Manchester, England, on June 2. The airline offers flights three days a week — Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays — on an Airbus A350 jet capable of carrying 397 passengers.

It’d been almost five years since the airline has carried U.K. passengers from the northwestern English city known for its industrial roots. The carrier previously ran direct flights between 2011 and 2019.

It’s notable as the U.K. is the largest overseas market for Vegas tourism at nearly 12 percent, or roughly 551,550 visitors, according to 2023 preliminary data from the LVCVA. That’s still down about 26 percent from 2019.

Juha Järvinen, chief commercial officer of Virgin Atlantic, said the company waited for market demand levels to restart the route.

“We felt summer 2024 was the right time to come because post-pandemic, the demand has recovered,” Järvinen said. “People want to travel again and they love Las Vegas. Many Europeans don’t like the summer heat, but actually, Brits love it.”

Järvinen said that while less than 10 percent of their customers come to Las Vegas for business travel, the company saw the uptick in meeting and convention business as another reason to restart the route.

“There’s more and more business travelers out of Manchester,” he said. “That’s why it’s crucially important for us to fly to New York and Atlanta, connecting to all of the U.S. – and Las Vegas and Orlando, both of them are big conference centers as well.”

British billionaire Branson was joined at his off-Strip Las Vegas hotel by Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Steve Hill and Virgin Hotels Collection CEO James Bermingham, among others.

Executives with the airline also used Monday’s news conference to announce new daily routes between London and Toronto.

Contact McKenna Ross at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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