A couple of friends and I gate crashed a Virgin Atlantic party last night at Bab Al Shams celebrating their inaugural flight to Dubai. Richard Branson was there and we enjoyed a nice buffet dinner and traditional Middle Eastern entertainment including four belly dancers.
I’m glad they have started on this route as both British Airways and Emirates need the competition to bring fares down and increase the level of service on this sector. Many people will also prefer flying Virgin all the way from California and Las Vegas to Dubai rather than using BA which is the only option at the moment. The Virgin Upper Class is far superior to the Business Class on both Emirates and BA.
UPDATE: I just saw a half-page ad in the newspaper from Etihad Airways saying “With 25 Etihad flights a week, the UK is hardly virgin territory.” This is basically a response to the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s service to Dubai. For those who don’t know, Etihad is the third “national carrier” of the United Arab Emirates. The other two are Emirates and Air Arabia, but none of these airlines belong to the U.A.E. federal government. Etihad belongs to Abu Dhabi, Emirates to Dubai, and Air Arabia to Sharjah.
Anyway, my point is that after seeing this ad I decided to figure out how many flights per week there are between the UAE and the UK. It turns out there are a lot. Emirates has 92 flights per week between Dubai and the UK, Etihad has 25 per week between Abu Dhabi and various UK destinations, and then there are services from British Airways, Virgin, Bangladesh Biman, and Royal Brunei which bring the grand total to approximately 122 flights per week yet it’s always difficult to get a seat and decent fare. I also found that Dubai is the second busiest destination out of London Heathrow after New York.