VIRGIN ATLANTIC'S planned move into the domestic market is being hampered by slot restrictions imposed at London Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

Richard Branson's airline has re-activated Cityair (Chester), a dormant Virgin Holdings company which has applied to the Civil Aviation Authority for a scheduled operating licence.

Virgin says that, while the proposed services are principally intended to feed its long-haul routes, it also wants to compete against rivals British Airways and British Midland on the UK's major trunk routes to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.

Despite Cityair's new entrant status, the indications are that it will be unable to obtain the necessary peak-hour slots at Heathrow. Virgin has admitted that domestic operations from its preferred airport may be doomed to failure and are unlikely to take off as planned in 1996.

Virgin is also looking at starting a European regional operation.

Source: Flight International