Virgin Express Returns Paris/Orly Slots and Re-focuses on Brussels

BELGIUM, May 16, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- The Belgian low fare airline Virgin Express (Euronext Brussels:VIRE) (OTCBB:VIRGY) has decided to return the allocated Paris/Orly slots to the COHOR and not to start operations from Paris/Orly this summer. When Virgin Express applied for departure and landing slots at Paris/Orly, it was in the hope that it would be allowed a significant portfolio of routes to cover many of the gaps left by the failure of the French airline, Air Lib. The company applied for 25,000 slots, in order to set up a twelve-aircraft, low fare operation from Orly to a wide range of destinations.

In the event Virgin Express was offered 5,840 slots, enough to operate only three allocated routes. Of these three routes only one had the potential for profitable operations in the near term. Furthermore, the restrictions placed on flight timings allowed a maximum aircraft utilisation much lower than that necessary for a low cost company. Because operating a single route from Paris would be uneconomic for an airline the size of Virgin Express, the Belgian low fare carrier rejected this option. Following detailed discussions with the COHOR, the situation has not improved sufficiently and will not allow Virgin Express to build sufficient scale of operation to be low cost. Without a low cost base the airline would not be able to offer the low fares that the Paris market needs and deserves.

Management attention will now be re-focussed on building on the leadership position that Virgin Express has in the Belgian market, by offering value for money fares to a growing number of destinations, for both business and leisure customers.

Virgin Express is currently the largest passenger carrier from Brussels Airport and was named 'Best Short Haul Carrier of the Year 2002' by the Belgian travel trade. It flies from Brussels to 16 destinations (Athens, Barcelona, Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Faro, Geneva, Gothenburg, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Malaga, Milan, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Rome and Stockholm). Virgin Express also operates a daily rotation between Rome and Amsterdam. Over the past 18 months, its on-time performance network-wide was 90%.


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