Virgin Atlantic eyes full fleet return by October 2021

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The British carrier Virgin Atlantic expects to return the whole fleet to the skies by October or November 2021. The hopes come as the air travel demand is expected to emerge during the course of summer. 

“We will only be satisfied when all of our planes will be in the sky and we return as many people back into flying and operating our flight which I expect to be in October or November this year,” CEO of Virgin Atlantic Shai Weiss said during the World Aviation Festival virtual event on April 21, 2021. 

Of the 37 aircraft in its fleet, 11 are currently parked, data shows. All 11 parked aircraft are Airbus A330s ‒ the oldest wide-bodies it has. Together with the two A330s in service, they average at almost 12 years. Meanwhile, the airline’s Dreamliners and Airbus A350 XWBs are much younger, standing at 5.2 and less than 2 years old on average. 

Virgin Atlantic believes that international air travel demand will emerge during the course of summer when the United Kingdom reopens international air travel subject to the “traffic light system” beginning May 17, 2021. However, the CEO of Virgin Atlantic sees certain shortcomings with regards to the newly introduced traffic light system.

Despite supporting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in adopting a cautious approach towards travel reopening in the United Kingdom, Weiss believes that the “traffic light system does not go far enough”, as traveling between low infection rate and highly vaccinated countries would not be PCR test-free.

“The big deal that we must acknowledge is that vaccines are working, and they are working very well,” Weiss added. “And we all know that travel will come back, it is just a matter of what is the shape and what is the speed of return.”

While talking about North Atlantic reopening, the Virgin Atlantic boss expected the United States to open borders for the UK between the period of Memorial Day on May 31, 2021, and Independence Day on July 4, 2021. 

During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virgin Atlantic laid off 45% of their employees (approximately by 3,000 positions), temporarily grounded 11 Airbus A330s as well as retired the whole fleet of Boeing 747s. The airline also reduced their costs by £335 million ($465 million), and finalized a £1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) private-only solvent recapitalization with the help of shareholders and creditors.

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