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The Interview /HH +DVOHƔ


Virgin Atlantic


The trade is at the centre of the airline’s strategy, according to the vice-president of UK & European sales, who moved from Virgin


Holidays in May. He spoke to Ben Ireland I 14


t’s been a few years VLQFH /HH +DVOHƔ KDV SLWFKHG GLUHFWO\ WR travel agents. But having recently


moved to a role at Virgin Atlantic from operator and agency Virgin Holidays, which went direct-sell- only in 2015, he’s buoyed by the opportunity to engage with the trade once again. “I’m reintroducing myself to the


trade,” he says. “If you look at us as an airline, we’ve got a strong relationship with a number of trade partners and one of the things we are really focused on is how to connect with frontline travel agents.” Haslet explains that one of the


key elements of Virgin Atlantic’s three-year Velocity strategy, launched in January, is to become the most-loved travel company – and he puts agents in the leisure sector at the heart of that. “When I look at being the


most-loved travel company, what we want is for travel agents to be looking at us, and for that to happen we need


24 OCTOBER 2019


to have the most-loved sales team. “Part of the reason I’m so


passionate about engaging with frontline sellers is that there’s more going on with Virgin Atlantic at the moment than I can remember in 10 years with the business.” Agents, he says, can help


customers understand which of Virgin Atlantic’s new products is best for them. Tat could be choosing which economy product they want [Virgin offers three tiers: Classic, Delight and Light] or advising on the latest aircraſt in the fleet, such as the “phenomenal” A350-1000, which had its maiden flight to New York last month. Te airline is taking delivery of 12 A350-1000s between 2019 and 2021, and Haslet says they are likely to be used on popular leisure routes such as Orlando and the Caribbean. “From an agent’s perspective, it’s a


fantastic product,” he says. “In Upper Class, Te Loſt [bar] has seating for eight people and it’s got seat belts, at the bar, so you don’t need to return to your seat in turbulence. “Te Premium economy product


is phenomenal as well. One of the things I love is the inflight entertainment – and the tail cam, which is in HD [high definition] and has proven really popular, especially during take-off and landing.” He says another selling point is the “very different” ‘loo with a view’.


1HZ URXWHV Virgin Atlantic hopes agents will be wowed not only by its modern fleet but also by the new routes it is offering to destinations outside its traditional North America and Caribbean stronghold. Te inaugural flight for one of those routes, Heathrow-Tel Aviv,


was scheduled for Wednesday (October 23), with Haslet on board alongside chief executive Shai Weiss and others in the senior leadership team ahead of a press conference with Sir Richard Branson in Israel. “It’s a great opportunity for those


more specialist agents,” he says. “It’s a beautiful leisure route as well as a business route.” A Heathrow-Sao Paulo service,


which will start in early 2020, will be Virgin Atlantic’s first foray into South America, offering connections across Brazil through its codeshare agreement with regional carrier Gol. “Tis opens up so many


opportunities and the trade is really


As an airline, we’ve got a strong relationship with a number of trade partners and one of the things we are really focused on is how to connect with frontline travel agents


travelweekly.co.uk


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