VIRGIN ATLANTIC IS considering expansion of its Manchester operations following the successful launch of its 1996 service to Orlando, Florida.

With 40% of available seats for the summer period pre-sold in the package-holiday market and scheduled bookings looking "healthy", the carrier is interested in other transatlantic opportunities.

The most likely destination is understood to be Los Angeles, California, where bilateral rights are unused following British Airways' withdrawal in 1994 of a service from Manchester. Virgin says that it could equally be looking at other US destinations, including Boston and New York. An announcement is not expected until May 1996.

Meanwhile, Virgin boss Richard Branson has made it clear that he would like to compete with BA shuttle services between Manchester and the London airports of Heathrow and Gatwick, although slot restrictions at Heathrow have put plans "on hold".

Source: Flight International