30-Second Interview – Juha Järvinen, EVP Commercial, Virgin Atlantic Airways

Juha Järvinen, Executive Vice President Commercial, Virgin Atlantic, met anna.aero’s Mohammad Bhimani at Virgin’s Gatwick HQ to talk about the new A350-1000s and the flurry of new Heathrow routes – Tel Aviv in September, a return to Mumbai in October, and Sao Paulo in 2020 – its first-ever venture into South America.

anna.aero: You joined Virgin Atlantic in January this year. On LinkedIn you list your role as running the network planning, joint ventures and partnerships, global sales, loyalty, brand and marketing, e-commerce, pricing, distribution & data analytics. That’s a lot of stuff – is there one area you do the most or are a particular specialist in?

Juha Järvinen: Despite working in multiple areas, distribution and network planning are a particular focus, given my experience in these areas during my previous Finnair life. Virgin Atlantic is entering a new phase which is all about growth. We are already getting the A350s and launching three important new routes; my job is to make sure that the organisation has the engine and mindset to do this, following years of no growth. Our expanded joint venture with Air France-KLM and Delta goes live this summer – as soon as we get the approvals. In addition to this, the Flybe acquisition and the creation of the Connect Airways consortium will enable us to widen our footprint in the UK regions in a completely different way.

anna.aero: What are the indicators that the Tel Aviv route is really going to work?

JJ: Despite there being multiple carriers on Tel Aviv, this is a completely new market with strong underlying business support for the service, especially from Israel’s global position as a tech-hub. The route will also improve our overall US connectivity.

anna.aero: Was Tel Aviv a straight swap for Dubai?

JJ: Not directly; we actually swapped out a New York frequency to provide the capacity. Dubai is also extremely competitive with Emirates, we had begun to feel that the route was not strategic for us, whereas Tel Aviv would especially benefit from our US connections.

anna.aero: You’re returning to Mumbai at the same time your partner Delta also announced the route from JFK. Was that coincidental?

JJ: There’s actually a long list of reasons: Mumbai was all triggered by the termination of Jet Airways’ operations; Delta and Virgin had both previously worked with Jet, while India is the third-largest aviation market in the world – and will soon be the second-biggest. We find the situation has completely changed – for a start it’s over 20% bigger!

anna.aero: Virgin Atlantic has launched a new three-year plan – Velocity. What’s that all about then?

JJ: Returning back to profitability! Velocity has three main pillars:

  • “Red on the inside” – this is all about our people with a clear focus on developing employees to serve customers even better.
  • “Red on the outside” – another pillar all about growth ranging from maximising revenues, through to greatly enhancing sales to build the network globally.
  • “The best in partnering” – focuses on building Virgin’s global footprint and route network by working with other airlines – both in the close family and the wider world.

anna.aero: In connection with that, what plans do you have for an expanded domestic and European network through the new Connect Airways consortium of Flybe and Stobart Air?

JJ: We don’t have EU approval yet, so until then it’s hard to do the planning, but we do see lots of growth potential both domestically in the UK and also Europe. But we can’t say what until we get those approvals!


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