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Virgin Atlantic unveils Flybe code-share deal, adds US routes

[LONDON] Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd signed an accord with regional carrier Flybe Group Plc aimed at feeding passengers from smaller European cities onto its flights to the US and Caribbean.

The code-share deal will encourage people traveling to and from 14 Flybe destinations to use Virgin's Manchester-based services and provide through ticketing between four cities and its Glasgow flights. Newquay in Cornwall will link with operations at London Gatwick.

Virgin Atlantic will also introduce routes from Manchester to San Francisco and Boston next summer, with the California city getting its first-direct flights from the airport, the Crawley, England-based company said in a statement Wednesday. Frequencies on an existing service to Barbados will increase.

The Flybe agreement comes after Ryanair Holdings Plc listed Virgin among carriers with which it was discussing possible feeder services.

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Passengers on Flybe code-share flights will be able to check themselves and their bags through to their final destination at the point of departure. The Exeter-based regional specialist has been looking for a new partner since 2014, when it quit an unprofitable venture that had fed Finnair Oyj's network.

Virgin Atlantic, which is 49 per cent owned by Delta Air Lines Inc, almost doubled pretax profit to 22.5 million pounds (S$43 million) in 2015. Its biggest base remains London Heathrow, where the Little Red unit founded to help boost passenger numbers from Scotland and Manchester was closed down last year.