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Virgin Atlantic to cut jobs and close Gatwick base

Virgin Atlantic to cut jobs and close Gatwick base

Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to downsize it business in response to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy.

The London-based carrier said it expected a recovery in aviation traffic to pre-crisis levels to take up to three years.

In response, a number of job losses have been announced, with 3,150 roles to go across the carrier.

Working closely with unions BALPA and Unite, a company-wide consultation period of 45 days has begun, Virgin said in a statement.

The new, small Virgin Atlantic is expected to fly only wide-body, twin-engine aircraft from London Heathrow and Manchester to the most popular destinations.

The carrier will no longer use its seven 747-400s, with four A330-200 aircraft retiring in early 2022 as planned. 

By 2022 the simplified fleet will comprise of 36 twin engine aircraft – down from 45 planes today.

As a result, Virgin Atlantic said it would move its Gatwick operation to Heathrow, temporarily suspending flights from the south London airport.

However, the airline said it intended to retain its slot portfolio at Gatwick, so a return can be made in line with customer demand.

Virgin currently holds two per cent of capacity at Gatwick, according to figures from Cirium.

The carrier uses the location for predominantly leisure travel services, to Antigua, Barbados, Havana, Montego Bay, Orlando and St Lucia.


Shai Weiss, chief executive of 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.”

As part of the restructure, Virgin Holidays will become Virgin Atlantic Holidays, focusing on one brand, while simplifying the operation for customers.

Virgin Atlantic Holidays will continue to focus on its partnership with Next and digital distribution, with 15 per cent of the Virgin Atlantic Holidays retail estate closing in 2020.

Weiss added: “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.”

Virgin Atlantic said it continued to explore all available options to obtain additional external funding.

“Constructive discussions” with several stakeholders, including the British government, are ongoing, while the company continues to benefit from shareholder support, added a statement.

Before the impact of Covid-19, Virgin Atlantic made a total of 422 flights every week, with a total weekly capacity of 133,800 seats.