London, 5 May 2020 – Virgin Atlantic has today announced extreme measures to reshape and resize its business in response to the current ongoing COVID-19 crisis which is having a devastating effect on the global aviation industry. The carrier had asked for a £500m loan from the UK government, however in March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak wrote to airlines and airports urging them to find other forms of funding, and that the government would only step in as “a last resort” during the coronavirus crisis.
The first major change announced by Virgin Atlantic today is the complete migration of Virgin’s flying program from London Gatwick to London Heathrow. This is a radical move by the carrier, who’s inaugural flight was between London Gatwick and New York Newark on 22 June 1984 using a Boeing 747-200 named Maiden Voyager and registered G-VIRG. The airline has operated from London Gatwick for close to 36 years uninterrupted.
Virgin Atlantic has made it clear, however, that they have the intention of retaining its slot portfolio at London Gatwick, so they can return in line with customer demand. How long until that may, or may not happen is not clear until travel restrictions begin to be lifted globally.
The second major change announced is the removal of two aircraft types from the Virgin Atlantic fleet. Sadly with immediate effect, the carriers seven remaining Boeing 747-400’s have flown their last flights and leave the fleet immediately.
The airlines four Airbus A330-200’s (mostly acquired second hand from Air Berlin in 2018) will also be phased out however this will not be expected until early 2022. This means that by 2022 the simplified, greener Virgin Atlantic fleet will comprise of 36 twin-engine aircraft reducing CO2/RTK emissions by an estimated further 10%, building on the 18% efficiency they had already achieved between 2007-2019.
The final and most devastating part of today’s announcement is the loss of up to 3,150 jobs from Virgin Atlantic. The airline says in order for them to emerge from the crisis, regrettably, it must reduce the number of people employed and today the company is announcing a planned reduction of 3,150 jobs across all functions. Working closely with unions BALPA and Unite, a company-wide consultation period of 45 days will begin today.
Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic commented: “We have weathered many storms since our first flight 36 years ago, but none has been as devastating as Covid-19 and the associated loss of life and livelihood for so many.”
“However, to safeguard our future and emerge a sustainably profitable business, now is the time for further action to reduce our costs, preserve cash and to protect as many jobs as possible. It is crucial that we return to profitability in 2021. This will mean taking steps to reshape and resize Virgin Atlantic in line with demand, while always keeping our people and customers at the heart of all we do.”
“I wish it was not the case, but we will have to reduce the number of people we employ. The commitment of our people throughout this crisis has been nothing but amazing, and the embodiment of true Virgin spirit. As we have navigated the Covid-19 crisis, I have been humbled at every step by their solidarity. In times of adversity we must support each other so that ultimately, we can emerge a stronger and better Virgin Atlantic.”
“After 9/11 and the Global Financial Crisis, we took similar painful measures but fortunately many members of our team were back flying with us within a couple of years. Depending on how long the pandemic lasts and the period of time our planes are grounded for, hopefully, the same will happen this time.”
“Our vision for Virgin Atlantic remains the same – to become the most loved travel company, for our people and our customers. Once the crisis stabilises, Virgin Atlantic has an important role to play in contributing to the UK’s economic recovery, providing essential connectivity and competition.”
|G-VLNM||322||Airbus A330-200||C19W35Y212||Strawberry Fields|
|G-VMIK||432||Airbus A330-200||C19W35Y212||Honky Tonk Woman|
|G-VMNK||403||Airbus A330-200||C19W35Y212||Daydream Believer|
|G-VWND||476||Airbus A330-200||C19W35Y212||Scarlet o'Hara|
|G-VGAL||32337||Boeing 747-400||C14W66Y375||Jersey Girl|
|G-VLIP||32338||Boeing 747-400||C14W66Y375||The Falcon|
|G-VROS||30885||Boeing 747-400||C14W66Y375||Forever Young|
|G-VROY||32340||Boeing 747-400||C14W66Y375||Pretty Woman|
|G-VXLG||29406||Boeing 747-400||C14W66Y375||Ruby Tuesday|
*At time of publishing on 5th May 2020