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November 23, 2014

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Virgin Atlantic, British airways to do battle over Las Vegas

The storied rivalry between British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways will have a new battleground — Las Vegas.

British Airways, the largest carrier in the United Kingdom by fleet size, announced that it would begin nonstop service three times a week between London’s Gatwick International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

The airline will use twin-engine Boeing 777 wide-body jets on the route, which begins Oct. 29. BA’s Club World cabin class features seats that convert to flat beds.

It’s the second overseas route for British Airways to Las Vegas, which already offers daily flights between McCarran and London’s Heathrow International Airport.

British Airways will offer flights Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, leaving London at 11:30 a.m. and arriving at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time. Return flights leave at 3:55 p.m., arriving in London at 9:45 a.m. the next day.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have one of the most competitive rivalries in the airline industry but have avoided direct competition in their flights to and from Las Vegas.

The two airlines have faced off publicly and in court over the years with Virgin’s flamboyant chief executive, Richard Branson, accusing British Airways of instigating a “dirty tricks” campaign against his airline. When British Airways floated a proposal to merge with American Airlines in the 1990s, Branson ordered his planes painted with the slogan “No Way BA/AA.”

Virgin Atlantic has daily routes from London-Gatwick and twice-weekly service from Manchester to Las Vegas while British Airways has daily service from Heathrow, the world’s busiest airport.

British Airways’ operations have been so successful that the airline last June bumped up the size of the plane it uses on the route to a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

In 2011, Virgin Atlantic flew 332,472 passengers to and from Las Vegas while British Airways had 209,766 passengers.

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  1. Great News for Las Vegas. I hope there is a Price War so we can also do the trip at a reasonable cost - the other way instead of just Casino Junkets.
    On International Trips it's often cheaper to leave out of LA. with many fares for Locals overpriced out of McCarren.

  2. Having flown millions of miles on business in my life time, I will choose BA. Virgin used to be a fantastic airline, but over the past several years they have gone downhill like a rock. The aircraft usually used on the Las Vegas route are the oldest in the fleet. Their entertainment system is as old as the hills and the attitude of most flight attendants has sunk to being surly and inattentive. If you contact Customer Service, you will also get a very surly attitude and you are the one always in the wrong. I attempted to book a flight to London using my Virgin miles, but the tax was $495, so I went with United and the tax was only $173. Virgin was good in its day, but it is trying to keep going on its past reputation and that is history.