Virgin Flights to Tobago

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SueShard
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Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by SueShard »

Has anyone heard that Virgin are stopping flying again to Tobago next June? A member of the cabin crew told me yesterday.
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Re: tour guide recommendations

Post by PaulMakin »

the site is still showing availability up until august 2020 but that probably shouldn't inspire too much confidence !

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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler »

Hi Sue

That's the first that I've heard of that too. Anything is possible, but the truth is that cabin crew are highly unlikely to know the score until just a few weeks before any service termination. Given that Virgin Atlantic are currently taking bookings through to August next (same as for any/all destinations), my best guess is that the crew member was referring to the fact that the service drops to a single (Sunday) service during the summer months. Fingers crossed that that is the case, because it would be really bad news for Tobago if the Virgin flights were dropped.
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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by SueShard »

I really hope that’s the case Steve.
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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by PaulMakin »

and, at the risk of re-opening a tin of worms that we'd long since hidden at the back of the outhouse, it would be ironic if virgin pulled the plug at the point where it seems that the upgraded airport facilities they pushed so hard for have moved a little further towards happening (the new international terminal project).

it would be difficult to patch up the loss of their flights, probably too difficult. i guess that if they did cease flying here they would also be dropping tobago as a holiday destination - they currently offer 8 flight/accommodation packages ?

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Paul Tallet
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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet »

The only flight operators that really support Tobago's tourism, in my opinion, are Thomas Cook and BA … but these operators give this support through their support of other more popular Caribbean destinations such as Antigua and Barbados … as a consequence you don't get direct flights both ways.

Richard Branson made a very highly charged visit to Tobago many years ago, offering to support the tourism if Tobago could upgrade it's airport to allow more volume through the check-in desks.

Since then, the airport has installed air-conditioning systems in the departure 'lounge' (trying to think of a better description!) that does not always work and invested in an new x-ray toy (which needed a small extension) that the officials could use to enhance their powers of pointlessness … I have never been sure if it works.

There has been no expansion of the kind that Virgin required and the consequence of this is that whole blocks of Virgin flights would be cancelled if the number of bums on seats did not reach expected levels.

I endured this for 2 consecutive years when booking via Virgin (or an agent) and having my flight switched to another operator such as BA or Thomas Cook.

If, as Paul says, the airport finally has a project then Virgin will likely bring much more tourism, however if the ongoing development of the new Fish market erection (I can't think of another word!) in Castara is anything to go by I would put a bet on that the airport development takes 20 years.

Virgin's flights are excellent quality but Virgin is a business and has to profit, unlike numerous other operators that have fallen by the wayside, Virgin are still there. The company has targeted package holidays and restricted flight-only business in order to make a profit from it's Tobago business. If there are not enough bums on seats it will pull the plug at any time of the year … and my flights were during the high season.

This brings me to another dilemma … Thomas Cook brings tourists from both the UK and Europe and I have used this operator since Monarch unfortunately fell out of this market.

Thomas Cook have already linked up with Lufthansa which means that flights from 2020 onwards from the UK involve a 3 hour stop (both ways) in Germany and no longer can I book a flight 15 months in advance as I have done.

Add this to the re-financing of Thomas Cook's business via a partial take-over by a Chinese business … this spells more changes and a possibility that the 'unprofitableness' of the Tobago proposition could lead to even fewer flights from the UK.

Although it is clear that Tobago's tourism is suffering I have noticed a marked increase in eastern European visitors in recent years … it's natural for the travel operators to see this and adjust their business plans accordingly.

However, I really hope that someone can destroy my perspective and offer more hope for Tobago's tourism.

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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by PaulMakin »

also in the mix is the virgin/liat thing that was going on earlier in the year - don't know if anything came of it but if it did actually happen then i could easily see future routes involving a change of plane at one of the hub islands and then liat/cal onwards to piarco and then crown point.

at that point i'd be looking at all alternatives - my sister and family are visiting end oct and are flying MAN/JFK/POS/TAB. that route suits their particular plans but i'll be interested in how they get on with it.

scanner is working again paul but it's only a matter of time before it fails and gets pushed back into the corner.

re the new terminal proposal: widely reported that NIDCO have served papers on land owners/occupiers ordering that they vacate by end feb 2020. payments to those affected are scheduled from end oct 2019.

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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet »

I used to do the Virgin / Liat thing via Barbados … it was good and you could steal a few extra Caribbean hours on Crane Beach or wherever in Barbados. I have wanted to go other places with Tobago as my base camp and if the Liat service came back properly I would be delighted.

As for Thomas Cook … https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49761464 ... it's looking a little dicey today (I hope the url link works).

Keeping my fingers and everything else crossed.

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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by PaulMakin »

just read a Virgin release relevant to this.

they are ceasing flights to UVF as of 8th June 2020. an additional flight to Antigua has been added to the schedule and passengers for St Lucia will transfer to a "partner" airline (the proposed LIAT thingy from last year ?) could also be the possibility (slim) of UVF passengers transferring to Delta - another Virgin partner airline - for the onward leg (i seem to recall that Delta serves both islands on the same flight)

the release simply states that passengers for Grenada and Tobago will "now connect through Antigua". whether this will be a change of plane/carrier is not made clear from the release.

it also speaks of increasing upper class capacity by 63% on said flights secondary to a switch to A330-300; whether this means a reduction in economy class seating is also not made clear (although, of course, that may just be as a result of using differently configured aircraft)

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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet »

Hello Paul

The way I read it (without referring to your sources) is that there is a vacuum left by Thomas Cook (TC), not only to the Caribbean but, to many destinations around the world, especially Europe … for example, some Hotels in the Canary Islands are closing for their winter season because they had an exclusive contract with TC taking up +90% of their capacity which has been, effectively flushed, down the proverbial hole of your choice.

Few, if any, flight operators seem to be filling the gaps, so to speak.

As far as Tobago is concerned, the eastern Europe business still seems to be operational (Condor) but only with financial support from the respective Governments. The German Government is one example.

But the omens are not good for Tobago … BT and Virgin continue to support flights to Tobago but (1) their prices are higher, (2) there is an increasing trend towards indirect flights via Antigua / Grenada / St Lucia etc etc and (3) their allocation to 'flight only' seats is becoming more limited, owing to the more profitable business of packaged/all inclusive deals. Therefore, I would hope that LIAT can cash in on this and cover some or all of the destination gaps.

From my experience the main operators' indirect flights deliver a maximum of 120 human bodies to Tobago, some of them Tobagonians, from a flight capacity of 400+ human bodies (with most of them going elsewhere).

With that in mind you have to query any flight operator's business plan to join in the demand for Tobago as a destination - let alone directly … it is not good business.

Tobago's tourism is already struggling and the THA cannot continue to rely on Tobago's beauty for the tourism money to keep rolling in … I mean - the old Departure Tax was a joke although this is now factored into the flight prices.

The resort/package tour business is monopolised by tour operators which limit package tourists to the most basic of exposure (in resorts) to Tobago's beauty and it is about time that the THA see the potential for the back-packing visitors that thrive on the natural beauty of Tobago and seeking residence and access to the more remote areas where Tobago would thrash many other Caribbean destinations by miles … local hostelries owned by Tobagonians bring the real business to Tobago whereas the resorts mostly bring revenues in for businesses that are not domiciled in Tobago … there are wider issues on this subject that I won't go into.

Selfishly, I hope Tobago remains as a secondary destination because I want all of it's natural beauty to myself … such as walking along a beautiful beach with nothing but the protected rainforest as the backdrop … and being the only person on that beach … you will not get your own 'free' beach anywhere else other than the most remotest areas of the Caribbean.

I will keep going to Tobago for as long as it is feasible but I sense that it could eventually fall outside of my financial options unless the THA tourism department (aka Business Prevention Department) begins to smell the coffee and puts realistic propositions out to the global tourism industry.

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Re: Virgin Flights to Tobago

Post by PaulMakin »

just found an update on this.

passengers for tobago and grenada will continue to be carried on a virgin aircraft via ANU. so far, schedule seems to be on sundays, ex gatwick at 10.10 with arrivals on tobago at 16.30. prices very much in line with previous years from what i can see.

business as usual then but with a slightly different view once across the atlantic.

i note that BA have picked up 2 of the 3 slots on St Lucia vacated by Virgin - 9 BA flights a week now, also feeding piarco (and grenada) so another routing possibly available if all else fails (LGW-UVF-PoS-TAB)

paul
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