• Joe Breitfeller

Virgin Atlantic Prepares for Post COVID-19 Future, Temporarily Exits London Gatwick

Virgin Atlantic announced a series of steps it is taking to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis as a leaner carrier with an optimized flight network. As part of the process, the airline is temporarily exiting London-Gatwick and moving operations to London-Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner - Courtesy Boeing

While many global carriers have received generous support packages from their governments, some UK carriers including Virgin Atlantic, have thus far had to go it alone. On Tuesday, Virgin Atlantic announced a series of steps they are taking to prepare for the realities of the post COVID-19 demand environment. The airline has taken decisive actions to reduce costs, preserve cash and protect as many valued airline jobs as possible as they explore external funding options. Virgin Atlantic is involved in ongoing discussions with several stakeholders, including the British government, and continues to enjoy support from company shareholders. However, in order to emerge from the crisis as a sustainably profitable business, the carrier is taking further decisive actions.

The company’s vision to be “the most loved travel company and the sustainability leader” remains intact as the airline navigates the most difficult period in commercial aviation history. Virgin Atlantic will radically adapt so they can thrive and ultimately make a significant contribution to the UK’s economic recovery. As always, the carrier will keep its team members and guests at the heart of everything they do. Regrettably, Virgin Atlantic announced a planned reduction of 3,150 jobs today, across all functions. The company is working closely with their labor unions (BALPA and Unite) and a company-wide consultation period of 45 days has started today. In Tuesday’s announcement, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO, Shai Weiss said in part,

“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 as 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 every day by their solidarity. In times of adversity we must support each other so that ultimately, we can emerge as a stronger and better Virgin Atlantic.”

In order to establish itself as the sustainability leader, Virgin Atlantic will only fly wide-body twin-engine aircraft from London-Heathrow (LHR) and Manchester. The carrier is temporarily consolidating its London-Gatwick flight program at LHR but will retain its Gatwick slot portfolio for a future return. Additionally, starting today, Virgin Atlantic will no longer use their fleet of seven Boeing 747-400s and will retire four A330-200s in early 2022. The company will therefore have an optimized fleet of 36 modern fuel-efficient twin-aircraft by 2022. Virgin Holidays has now been named ‘Virgin Atlantic Holidays’ to focus on a single powerful brand and 15 percent of the company’s retail locations will close by year’s end. Virgin Atlantic Cargo continues to operate, keeping essential global supply chains open and carrying critical medical supplies and PPE to the UK daily for NHS frontline teams.

Source: Virgin Atlantic