Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic to launch UK domestic service named Little Red

Virgin Atlantic is set to launch its UK domestic service called Little Red in a challenge to British Airways' (BA) "monopoly" in the region.

The company's first ever domestic service will connect Scotland and Manchester to London. It will have 26 daily flights between London Heathrow, Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. On 31 March, the airline will start four-times-a-day Manchester flights. A six-daily Edinburgh service will start on 5 April and a thrice-daily Aberdeen service on 9 April.

"Little Red represents the next step on that journey as we go head to head with British Airways to provide domestic flights that deliver Virgin Atlantic's rock and roll spirit as well as real value for money," said Virgin founder Richard Branson.

Operating about 52 daily flights between Heathrow and Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, BA remains a major player in the domestic service from Heathrow, especially after the acquisition of BMI by its parent company IAG. It also has services to Scotland from Gatwick and London City airports.

Virgin had earlier won key take-off and landing slots at Heathrow operated BMI, after regulators required IAG to give up the slots to ensure competition on routes to Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Leading to the decision, an assessment by the European Commission had found that there has been a significant hike in BA fares on the Glasgow route since BMI withdrew its services early in 2011.

Virgin, which will use Heathrow Terminal 1 for its domestic service, also expects higher traffic from its international service operating from Terminal 3. The airline is expected to lease Airbus A320s from another operator on its new routes.

It will offer passenger services including free check-in luggage up to 23kg, pre-assigned seats and complimentary food and drinks including snacks and hot breakfasts. Passengers will also get exclusive products on board under tie-up made with brands such as Tyrrells, Irn-Bru, Bacardi, Collective Dairy and Rude Health.