Following airlines such as British Airways, Air Canada (ADH2) and SAS, Virgin Atlantic announced that it would cut more than 3,100 jobs, over a third of its workforce, to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Additionally, its whole fleet of seven Boeing 747 aircraft will be retired, and its activities at London Gatwick airport will cease.
“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,” Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic commented in a statement. “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.”
In order to do so, the carrier said it would cut 3,150 jobs across all functions, a reduction which it claims would be done after a 45-days consultation with two trade unions, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) and Unite. “This is another terrible blow for the industry and is evidence of the dire situation facing UK aviation,” commented BALPA, which has recently called for more actions from the British government in order to protect jobs in the industry.
Similarly to British Airways, Virgin Atlantic will close its operations in London Gatwick Airport (LGW). The company had been headquartered in the airport since its foundation, 35 years ago. Routes will be transferred to London Heathrow (LHR).
The fleet of seven Boeing 747-400s will be retired, along with four A330-200 aircraft in early 2022. “By 2022 the simplified, greener fleet will comprise of 36 twin engine aircraft reducing CO2/RTK emissions by an estimated further 10%,” explained the company.
Virgin Atlantic is in the process of applying for emergency loans from the government. On April 23, 2020, Virgin Atlantic’s founder, Richard Branson, warned of the urgent financial situation of the company. The company co-owner, Delta Air Lines, which possesses 49% of Virgin Atlantic, reported a loss of $534m for the first quarter of 2020, and thus ruled out any cash injection into the ailing British carrier.