Virgin Atlantic will reduce its schedule by approximately 80 per cent in terms of flights per day by March 26th.
The move comes following a rapid acceleration of the impact of Covid-19 on global aviation and tourism.
Most importantly, an increasing number of countries are now closing their borders – including the United States, where a travel embargo from the UK comes into force today.
As a direct consequence Virgin Atlantic said it would be grounding three quarters of its fleet by the end of the month.
At points in April this could go up to 85 per cent, the carrier said.
“The situation is deteriorating at pace and the airline has seen several days of negative bookings, driven by a huge volume of cancellations as customers choose to stay at home,” a statement explained.
In response to the developing situation, the European Commission has announced a suspension of the ‘use it or lose it’ slot rules until June 30th, enabling the airline to consolidate schedules and ground aircraft immediately.
Virgin said staff will be asked to take eight weeks unpaid leave over the next three months, with the cost spread over six months’ salary, to “drastically reduce costs without job losses”.
The airline said the support of BALPA and Unite and the workforces they represent had made the move possible.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson commented: “The aviation industry is facing unprecedented pressure.
“We are appealing to the government for clear, decisive and unwavering support. Our industry needs emergency credit facilities to a value of £5-7.5 billion, to bolster confidence and to prevent credit card processors from withholding customer payments.
“We also need slot alleviation for the full summer 2020 season, so we can match supply to demand – reducing costs and preventing unviable flying and corresponding CO2 emissions.”
Further steps taken by Virgin also include offering a one-time voluntary severance package to all employees, offering a sabbatical of six-12 months and the deferring of annual pay increases until review in January.
Virgin has already introduced a company-wide recruitment freeze and begun a restriction on all non-essential staff travel and training.
For all the latest from Breaking Travel News on the coronavirus pandemic, take a look here.