Virgin Atlantic returns 3 Heathrow remedy slots to IAG

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Virgin Atlantic will hand three of the 12 Heathrow remedy slots it secured from IAG back to the British Airways parent, having dropped its short-haul European plans in favour of a UK focus.

"We planned to use two of the slots for Moscow, but following the decision of the CAA in October to award the designation to EasyJet, we are not able to operate these flights," a spokesperson tells Flightglobal.

"After a thorough review of our short-haul plans we have decided that for now we should focus on UK domestic flying."

Alongside the two planned Moscow flights, Virgin had also envisaged using at least one of the daily slot pairs for flights to Nice - another of the destinations earmarked by the CAA for future use on the remedy slots.

Both Nice and Moscow have now been dropped from the business plan, with Virgin instead utilising nine daily slot pairs to compete with IAG on Scottish services.

Effective April 2013, the airline will operate six daily flights to Edinburgh plus three daily services to Aberdeen. Another three daily slot pairs will be used for Manchester, though these are separate from the 12 remedy slots.

"The [three unused remedy] slots will be returned to IAG for summer 2013, but they remain available in future seasons for airlines wishing to start operations or add frequency on the remedy routes," the spokesperson adds.

In addition to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Moscow and Nice, the CAA has identified Riyadh and Cairo as permissible destinations for the remedy slots.

IAG handed the 12 remedy slots over to Virgin in November after the CAA voiced concerns about the former's 53% market share at Heathrow following its acquisition of BMI - a move that Virgin had vociferously lobbied against.

The airline says its upcoming domestic flights will "protect competition to and from Heathrow for the long-term".

Virgin also confirmed this week that it will wet lease four Airbus A320s from Aer Lingus for use on the domestic services. The spokesperson says no further aircraft are being sought.