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A Virgin Atlantic aircraft comes in to land at Heathrow Airport in London on May 26, 2009.

LUKE MACGREGOR/REUTERS

Virgin Atlantic airline will cease flying to Canada next month.

The airline's annual summer flights between Vancouver and Heathrow airport in London will end Oct. 11 and will not be resumed next summer, the airline said Wednesday in announcing a restructuring of its schedule. The service operated five flights per week.

The airline is increasing flights to U.S. destinations, but eliminating flights between Heathrow and Mumbai and Tokyo's Narita airport in a revamp driven by its joint-venture partnership with Atlanta-based carrier Delta Air Lines Inc. Winter seasonal service to Cape Town, South Africa, will also end after April 2015.

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Among other changes to its U.S. routes, it's adding daily service to Detroit and increasing daily service to New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

"What we've actually done is taken a look at our complete network, that's every single route that we fly," Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman Sarah McIntyre said. "We had to take difficult decisions on whether it was a profitable route, whether it would ever be a profitable route and also whether it was a strategic route."

Virgin Atlantic will serve Canada from Britain through Delta flights, Ms. McIntyre said, including connections through Minneapolis and Seattle.

Delta meanwhile, reduced ranges for revenue and operating margin from its third-quarter financial results.

Virgin Atlantic, which is 51-per-cent owned by its founder Richard Branson and 49 per cent by U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines, also said Wednesday it was on track to make an annual profit by the end of this year, after two years of running at a loss. Virgin said by 2018 it was targeting "record" profitability. The current record was set in 1999 when it posted a pretax profit excluding special items of around $163-million (U.S.).

A joint-venture partnership with Delta on transatlantic services started on Jan. 1, after Delta bought Singapore Airlines' 49-per-cent stake in the British carrier for $360-million in cash last year.

The deal has given Virgin the chance to win more U.S. customers, due to Delta's domestic U.S. connections, while Delta gets increased access to the lucrative but restricted London Heathrow market.

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"Our relationship with Delta ... makes the transatlantic more attractive than it used to be," chief executive Craig Kreeger said in an interview on Wednesday.

Under the intended network changes, Virgin will fly five additional daily transatlantic flights from next summer and Mr. Kreeger shrugged off concerns of overcapacity in that market.

"We do see it as intensely competitive but I don't think I would say that I see it as fundamentally changing in that regard," he said.

The routes to Tokyo, Mumbai, Vancouver and Cape Town that the company plans to discontinue were "generally speaking" unprofitable, Mr. Kreeger said. Virgin will continue to fly to India and South Africa, however, on its Delhi and Johannesburg routes.

With files from Reuters and The Canadian Press

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More

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