Virgin Atlantic eyes Flybe 'to take back Scotland-Heathrow slots'

Sir Richard Branson's "Stiff Competition" stunt at the launch of Virgin Atlantic's Little Red flights from Edinburgh in 2012. Picture: Julie Bull
Sir Richard Branson's "Stiff Competition" stunt at the launch of Virgin Atlantic's Little Red flights from Edinburgh in 2012. Picture: Julie Bull
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The prospect of Virgin Atlantic resuming Scotland-Heathrow flights three years after baling out was raised today as it confirmed a possible takeover bid for struggling Flybe.

Shares in the Exeter-based carrier, which put itself up for sale last week, took off after it was revealed to be in Virgin Atlantic's sights.

Virgin competed with British Airways on the Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Heathrow routes between 2013 and 2015, branded as Little Red.

The service was launched by a red kilt-wearing Sir Richard Branson, who arrived at Edinburgh Airport to reveal a pair of white pants underneath with the slogan "Stiff Competition".

However, the flights were grounded over mounting losses and Flybe launched Edinburgh-Heathrow services in their place, as The Scotsman revealed.

Virgin Atlantic is believed to be interested in acquiring these "slots" at Heathrow to feed its long-haul routes with passengers from UK airports, which it failed to profitably achieve with Little Red.

BACKGROUND: Virgin Scotland-Heathrow link-up ‘restores choice’

Any takeover could prove interesting for sister firm Virgin Trains, which operates between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London via the west coast main line.

Since Little Red was ditched, the firm has played up the “pain” of flying in its adverts, and trumpeted travelling by train instead as “instant plane relief”.

The Flybe share price soared by more than 70 per cent today.

It has been hit with falling demand and a £29 million hit from rising fuel costs and the weak pound.

The airline's network also includes routes between Scotland and London City, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: "Virgin Atlantic has a trading and codeshare relationship and confirms it is reviewing its options in respect of Flybe, which range from enhanced commercial arrangements to a possible offer for Flybe.

"Virgin Atlantic emphasises that there can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms of any offer.”

READ MORE: Airline Flybe hoists the ‘for sale’ flag