Manchester Airport has secured a direct service to Delhi, the capital of India, which hopes to benefit more than 500,000 people of Indian origin living in the North of England.

Virgin Atlantic will fly from the UK’s Northern gateway to Delhi three times a week, starting on 26th October this year. It will benefit the 500,000 people of Indian origin living across the North of the UK, as well as being tipped to unlock a wide range of economic and cultural opportunities.

The route is the latest addition to Virgin’s growing long-haul network from Manchester, and its first travelling east. Its launch reflects the airline’s recognition of the strength of the North’s business and leisure market.

The news has been hailed as a major milestone in Manchester’s relationship with India and comes just more than two years after the Manchester India Partnership (MIP) was set up to forge closer to links between the two places.

Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport and Chair of the Manchester India Partnership, said:

“Securing a direct service to one of India’s major cities is the product of a lot of hard work over a long period of time to forge closer ties between Manchester and this globally significant economy.

“I am delighted Virgin Atlantic has recognised this by launching what I’m sure will be a hugely popular service, not least for the 500,000 people of Indian origin living across the North.

“Our Aviation team has worked closely with the airline to create a compelling case for why our city – and the wider North – is a great place to visit, invest in and do business with. Virgin Atlantic is a key partner for Manchester Airport and this new route to Delhi is in addition to continued growth in recent years for the airline here at the UK’s third biggest airport.

“Direct connectivity to the world’s most important markets is key to creating a prosperous and internationally competitive Northern economy, and a balanced and outward facing UK.

“This route will deliver a major boost to businesses looking to export to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, as well as helping to attract Indian visitors and investors to the North.

“We look forward to working with Virgin Atlantic on launching the Delhi service in the months ahead and thank them for their continued growth at Manchester, the UK’s global gateway for the North.”

The Manchester-Delhi service will be operated by an A330-200 aircraft, with Economy, Premium Economy and Upper Class cabins. It will fly on a Monday, Thursday and Saturday, departing Manchester at 16:40 landing the next morning in Delhi at 06:05. The return service, will depart on a Tuesday, Friday or Sunday at 08:10 landing back at 12:10.

There are currently 180,000 people a year who fly from Manchester Airport’s catchment area to Delhi, the capital of India and home to is main government functions.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer, Virgin Atlantic commented:

“2020 is an extremely exciting year of continued growth for Virgin Atlantic and increasing our presence out of Manchester is a huge focus for us. Not only are we the headline sponsor of the Manchester Pride Festival but we’re delighted to announce a new service flying three times a week from Manchester to Delhi, additional capacity into Barbados from Manchester as well as a Clubhouse opening this summer. This year will also see Flybe transform into Virgin Connect, and we’re excited to offer customers flying from the north 47 daily flights throughout the UK, Ireland and across Europe.”

“2020 marks our 20th anniversary of flying to India and as the destination continues to grow in popularity for both business and leisure travel, we’re thrilled to fly to Delhi for very first time from Manchester, our home in the North.”

Virgin Atlantic has grown strongly at Manchester Airport in recent years.  In addition to new flights to Delhi the carrier has also launched Los Angeles last year and in the summer, as part of the airport’s £1bn transformation, will open a Clubhouse in the new terminal.

The news comes as today Manchester welcomed the UK High Commissioner to India, Sir Phillip Barton. He was due to meet members of the MIP board and visit the likes of Manchester City Football Club, the University of Salford and MediaCityUK.

It is the latest milestone in the North’s relationship with India. Last year, Greater Manchester played host to the India vs Pakistan ICC Cricket World Cup fixtures, one of the most watches sporting games of all time.

That was followed by the unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Ghandi in Manchester City Centre.

In the two years since the MIP was founded, there have been a series of trade and cultural delegations travelling in both directions, with a number of Indian businesses establishing bases in the region.

Just last week, Lancashire County Cricket Club held its pre-season tour in India, while the Universities of Bolton and Salford have also set up partnerships with Indian institutions over the past two years.

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