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Virgin Atlantic is set to start new domestic services from Heathrow Airport.

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Sir Richard Branson’s airline said today it had been offered short-haul take-off and landing slots available following the takeover of bmi by British Airways’s parent company IAG.

Virgin plans to begin services on March 31 next year, and will primarily focus on multiple daily flights between Heathrow and Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The new routes, on which Virgin will compete with long-time rival British Airways, will complement the new Heathrow to Manchester route the airline is also introducing next year.

Steve Ridgway, Virgin Atlantic chief executive, said: “We have fought hard for the right to fly short haul and take a strong challenge to BA within these shores.

“For 28 years both airlines have battled for customers all over the world and it has meant that British consumers have ultimately had some of the world’s best flying and lowest fares.”

Scotland’s Transport Minister Keith Brown said it was a welcome announcement for both passengers and the air industry.

Mr Brown said: “We look forward to a long and productive relationship with Virgin Atlantic and the exciting connections they can offer with all the benefits that will bring for passengers, Scotland’s aviation industry and the wider Scottish economy.

“The detail will be worked out over the next couple of weeks but we are pleased that the European Commission has taken note of the need for both Edinburgh and Aberdeen to be served and that Virgin Atlantic will now be able to operate from two of Scotland’s most important cities.”

The minister said he remained concerned about the lack of competition on the Glasgow to Heathrow service as a consequence of Bmi’s withdrawal of the service last year.

Glasgow was not part of the remedies package considered by the European Commission.

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