Virgin Atlantic Airways will begin operating three daily flights from London Heathrow to Manchester from 31 March 2013.
The new route is the airline's first domestic service and will compete with British Airways on the route.
Virgin Atlantic expects the short haul service to feed its long haul services as well as providing choice for between London and the capital of the North. Sir Richard Branson's airline will apply for all of the remedy slots being awarded by the European Commission following the IAG takeover of bmi, but is using some of its existing slots to service the Manchester to London route. The airline believes competition on this route has been neglected in the remedy process and aims to provide choice for the 650,000 passengers who travel between the two cities.
Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said: "Flying between Heathrow and Manchester is just the start for Virgin Atlantic's new short haul operation. We have the means to connect thousands of passengers to our long haul network as well as to destinations served by other carriers. Our new service will provide strong competition to overly-dominant BA; keep fares low and give consumers a genuine choice of airline to fly to Heathrow and beyond."
Ken O'Toole, chief commercial officer of Manchester Airports Group, said: "Virgin is already a strong carrier at the airport with long haul routes to Barbados, Orlando and Las Vegas and this move adds to their range of services for the North of England. We aim to support our airlines as they look to grow and we hope the success of Virgin's domestic services will lead to further expansion at Manchester."
Ridgway added: "Operating a London to Manchester route will provide an invaluable feed to our existing long haul network for both business and leisure passengers. It is the perfect introduction to short haul flights for Virgin Atlantic – we know that passengers travelling from Manchester connect onto destinations we already serve; including Boston, Cape Town and Hong Kong. We changed the way consumers view long haul travel with our unique approach to flying and we are now in the position to do that to short haul travel too."