…and shakes up airline check-in for first and business class flyers

Virgin Atlantic Airways is planning to allow passengers to avoid normal check-in procedures.

Passengers on Virgin’s Upper Class, its equivalent to first and business class, already have a limousine service to the airport. Now their chauffeur will phone ahead to give passenger details to the check-in staff and arrange seat allocation.

On arrival at the airport, the chauffeur will also check in the luggage, after asking passengers standard questions for security requirements. Passengers will then be taken to the departure lounge where they will be given their boarding pass.

The chauffeurs have the same security clearance as other airport staff involved in check-in procedures. The luggage will be stored in a specially built security area used for baggage that has been approved by airport security staff.

Virgin Atlantic says its service will be unique and claims other airlines would not be able to copy it as they do not offer such an extensive limousine facility.

The scheme will begin in September at Terminal 3, the airline’s Heathrow base, and will later be extended to Gatwick airport.

This latest move raises the stakes in the battle for the lucrative business market: what the airlines offer in price and service for this sector has become so similar that millions of pounds have been spent emphasising features such as extra legroom to sway passengers.

The service will be launched with a press advertising campaign, followed by TV coverage through Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe.

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