Virgin Atlantic positions itself for post-Covid-19 future

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Dominic Kennedy, Virgin Atlantic Cargo: Virgin Atlantic Cargo will continue to provide essential services during this crisis and beyond

Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to reshape and resize its business to ensure that it is fit for the future, in response to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy and the travel and aviation industry.

Accordingly, the airline has taken decisive action to reduce costs, preserve cash and to protect as many jobs as possible, said an airline statement. Virgin Atlantic continues to explore all available options to obtain additional external funding.

As Virgin Atlantic aims to establish itself as the sustainability leader, it will fly only wide-body, twin-engine aircraft from London Heathrow and Manchester to the most popular destinations. It will be moving its flying programme from London Gatwick to London Heathrow, with the intention of retaining its slot portfolio at London Gatwick, so it can return in line with customer demand.

From today, Virgin Atlantic will no longer use all of its seven 747-400s, with four A330-200 aircraft retiring in early 2022 as planned.  By 2022 the simplified, greener fleet will comprise of 36 twin engine aircraft reducing CO2/RTK emissions by an estimated further 10%, building on the 18% efficiency already achieved between 2007-2019.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo will continue to provide essential services during this crisis and beyond, keeping global supply chains running and continuing to bring crucial medical supplies and PPE into the UK on a daily basis for NHS frontline teams.

In order for the airline 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 begins 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.”