UK long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic Airways has abandoned immediate plans to launch an all-premium transatlantic operation from mainland Europe, claiming that the lack of follow-on ‘open skies’ progress has rendered the venture too risky.

Last summer Virgin outlined plans to launch all-premium transatlantic services between continental Europe and the USA during 2008. But late last year CEO Steve Ridgway said aircraft and product challenges made it uncertain whether the carrier would go ahead with the move.

Virgin confirms that it has abandoned the plan, although it attributes the decision to a lack of progress with follow-on ‘open skies’ talks.

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman says: “Virgin Atlantic can confirm that it has put on hold its plans for a business-only carrier operating between key European cities and New York.

“With no progress being made on the crucial next stage of the ‘open skies’ talks, it would be too risky to start this new venture with the likelihood that the first stage of open skies could be reversed in 2010. Our plans will remain on ice until there is clearer progress.

“Virgin Atlantic would like to see European carriers being allowed to fly onwards within the USA as soon as possible, as US carriers will be allowed to fly onwards within Europe from March 2008.”

British Airways has maintained its plan to launch Boeing 757-operated flights between New York and continental Europe. But although the Oneworld carrier was due to detail its plans last November, no details have yet been given.

A BA spokeswoman declines to comment on when further information will be released about the venture.

Source:'s sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news

*Lead image: ©