THIRD TIME LUCKY

Virgin Atlantic Returns to Canada
Boosts Partnership with WestJet

A young Nina Slawek interviews Richard Branson at 2001 Virgin Atlantic launch party in Toronto

Virgin Atlantic’s first foray into Canada was marked by a splashy waterfront party in Toronto in the summer of 2001. Sir Richard Branson glad-handed with travel industry guests as they arrived to celebrate the exciting new service to London. 

Branson and Drake greet fans on the YYZ tarmac with the arrival of Virgin Atlantic in 2010

 When asked by Open Jaw if the challenging Canadian market would be an issue in winter, Branson replied, “This little virgin has never pulled out early!”

The carrier sadly decamped that fall.

Virgin Atlantic was last seen in Canada some 10 years ago. But the company pulled out of the Canadian market after its LHR-YVR flights fizzled.

Virgin America dallied with the Canadian market back in 2010, with a campaign featuring Toronto’s own Drake (they even named a plane after him). This time, trans-border service between YYZ and both LAX and SFO was on the menu. Both routes died in April 2011.

Fast-forward to Virgin Atlantic’s 40th anniversary celebration in Las Vegas on June 10, 2024, when the carrier announced its return to Toronto next spring.

This time around, however, the airline is armed with strong allies such as WestJet along with the Delta, AF, KL joint venture to bolster its network, North American reach and sales efforts.

Daily service between YYZ and LHR will start 30MAR, 2025.

“Flights will operate a mix of aircraft on the route, including the A330-900neo, the latest addition to its young fleet,” VA said. “Featuring the airline’s Retreat Suite, iconic onboard social space, wireless charging, and stylish design touches.

Retreat Suite

“The new service is set to connect two global financial hubs and provides optimal connectivity for Virgin Atlantic’s Indian customers via London, from newly launched destination Bengaluru, alongside Mumbai and Delhi, which both operate twice daily.

“We are incredibly excited to be back in Canada and to launch this new service between Toronto and London,” said Juha Jarvinen, CCO at Virgin Atlantic. “With an impressive film, sports, food, and entertainment scene, we know Canadians will enjoy travelling with us to London, a city that also celebrates arts and culture and encourages exploration.”

In addition to the new Toronto-London flight, Virgin Atlantic said it’s expanding its codeshare partnership with WestJet as of October of this year.

“The partnership will allow Canadian customers to travel seamlessly throughout the region, including flights from Ottawa and Winnipeg. Benefits for both airlines’ frequent flyers are expected to follow in 2025,” officials said.

“Beginning this winter, WestJet guests will gain access to an extensive list of unique international destinations via London's Heathrow Airport, through the expansion of WestJet's codeshare agreement with Virgin Atlantic,” WestJet said in a news release.

“Through this expansion, WestJet will sell itineraries including flights operated by Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow (LHR) to destinations within Virgin Atlantic's international network for winter 2024/2024. By summer 2025, WestJet will also provide domestic connectivity to Virgin Atlantic's newly announced route between Toronto-Pearson and London Heathrow.”

WestJet and Virgin Atlantic.

WestJet and Virgin Atlantic have had an established codeshare partnership since 2019.

"With daily flights from our global hub in Calgary to London, Canadians have never had better international access from across Western Canada to the United Kingdom and beyond,” said John Weatherill, EVP and CCO.

Starting this winter, the expanded partnership will provide guests with single-stop access on a single itinerary from Calgary via Virgin Atlantic's Global Hub at LHR to new global destinations, including New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru in India. Other desirable destinations include Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa, Lagos, Nigeria, Dubai, and the Maldives, WestJet said.

As part of the expanded relationship, WestJet Rewards and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will be working towards a reciprocal frequent flyer partnership in 2025.

WestJet's expanded codeshare agreement with Virgin Atlantic will be the airline's first agreement that enables connectivity beyond Europe through London Heathrow, a significant milestone in growing WestJet's global network and the first time that WestJet guests will have access to India, Africa, and the Middle East.

Later this year, guests from across WestJet's network will be able to book their entire journey on one ticket through WestJet.com and the WestJet App, allowing for a seamless connection at LHR with baggage transfers.

In addition to the WestJet codeshare, Virgin Atlantic’s partnership with the Delta/Air France/KLM joint venture opens additional avenues of cooperation. Particularly in light of WestJet and Delta’s partnership. 

It is Open Jaw’s understanding the Canadian Delta/AF/KL sales team will be spearheading the Virgin Atlantic rollout. It’s good to have friends.

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