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Virgin Atlantic moves to fill Jet void on Heathrow-Mumbai

Virgin Atlantic is to resume flights between London Heathrow and Mumbai following the suspension of Jet Airways' own service on the route.

The UK carrier says it will begin a daily service to the Indian city from October, operated with a Boeing 787-9. Virgin Atlantic previously offered flights to Mumbai between 2005 and 2015, before halting the Indian service as a part of a wider network revamp putting more focus on its transatlantic operations.

It did continue to codeshare on the route with Jet Airways. However, the Indian carrier was forced to suspend flights in April, amid growing financial challenges, and remains grounded as it seeks new investors.

Virgin says the new Mumbai flight will not only enhance a vital link between India's commercial centre and the UK's capital, but it also provides "seamless connections" via Heathrow between India and the USA. The new flights will depart from and arrive at Heathrow in the morning, to align with connecting flows to and from USA.

Cirium schedules data shows that British Airways and Air India already operate between London Heathrow and Mumbai. Prior to its halting of international flights in April, Jet Airways' rival service accounted for 55% of the seat capacity between the two cities, the data shows. BA has itself already moved to add more 787-operated frequencies to its existing double-daily Heathrow-Mumbai service from July.

"Until recently we've been able to serve this important market through our partnership with Jet Airways. However, since Jet Airways has sadly suspended its operation, we now have an opportunity to provide alternative options for our customers and meet this demand," says Virgin's executive vice-president of commercial Juha Jarvinen.

In addition to passenger demand, Virgin Atlantic says it continues to see increased cargo business. It says the route will provide "new opportunities" for companies looking to export and import goods between Mumbai and prime markets in the UK and USA.

Virgin also serves New Delhi from Heathrow.

The UK carrier's shareholder Delta Air Lines has also disclosed plans to resume services to the Indian city, with a new connection from New York JFK set to begin in December. The US major first announced its plan to restore India flights last year,after open-skies framework deals struck by the USA with the UAE and Qatar enabled it to return to the market.

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