Virgin Atlantic axes Gatwick flights and plans to cut 3,000 jobs amid coronavirus crisis

5 May 2020, 13:58

By Megan White

Virgin Atlantic will stop flying services from London Gatwick and plans to cut over 3,000 jobs as part of a restructuring programme amid the coronavirus crisis.

The airline is expecting to axe over 3,000 jobs - a 30 per cent cut - after a 45-day consultation and will remove all Boeing 747s from its fleet.

But it said it hopes to return to Gatwick "in line with customer demand" once the pandemic is over and travel bans are lifted.

Pilots union BALPA said 426 pilots were at risk of losing their jobs in the restructuring.

Read more: EasyJet boss warns airlines could go bankrupt from Covid-19 outbreak

File photo: Virgin Atlantic will pull out of London Gatwick amid the coronavirus crisis
File photo: Virgin Atlantic will pull out of London Gatwick amid the coronavirus crisis. Picture: PA

CEO Shai Weiss said "will have to reduce the number of people we employ" but said he hoped many of those who lose their jobs could return to the airline at a later date.

Sir Richard Branson had previously claimed the airline would collapse unless it received Government support.

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic announced a "planned reduction of 3,150 jobs across all functions. Working closely with unions BALPA and Unite, a company-wide consultation period of 45 days begins today."

They said the plans will "reshape and resize its business to ensure that is it fit for the future, in response to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy, our nation and the travel and aviation industry."

The airline said in a statement they would "fly only wide-body, twin-engine aircraft from London Heathrow and Manchester to the most popular destinations" but has the "intention of retaining its slot portfolio at London Gatwick, so it can return in line with customer demand."

They said they believe "recovery to pre-crisis levels to take up to three years," and said: "Uncertainty around when flying will resume, coupled with unprecedented market conditions brought on by the pandemic, has severely reduced revenues for the global aviation industry and Virgin Atlantic."

Read more: Airlines reopen passenger routes to deliver PPE haul to UK from China

The airline also said: "From today, Virgin Atlantic will no longer use all of its seven 747-400s, with four A330-200 aircraft retiring in early 2022 as planned.

"By 2022 the simplified, greener fleet will comprise of 36 twin engine aircraft reducing CO2/RTK emissions by an estimated further 10%, building on the 18% efficiency already achieved between 2007-2019."

15 per cent of Virgin Atlantic Holidays stores will close this year.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “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.

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

“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.

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"Depending on how long the pandemic lasts and the period of time our planes are grounded for, hopefully the same will happen this time.

“Our vision for Virgin Atlantic remains the same - to become the most loved travel company, for our people and our customers. Once the crisis stabilises, Virgin Atlantic has an important role to play in contributing to the UK’s economic recovery, providing essential connectivity and competition.”

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said: “Our members and all staff in Virgin Atlantic will be shocked by the scale of this bombshell. We will be challenging Virgin very hard to justify this.

“My letter to the Chancellor yesterday is all the more significant - why is the Government sitting on its hands while aviation plunges further towards a death spiral? Government should call a moratorium on job losses in aviation and lead a planned recovery.”

Airlines around the world are facing a struggle to survive due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week it was announced that up to 12,000 British Airways workers are to lose their jobs, which is more than one in four employees.

Ryanair is cutting up to 3,000 jobs across pilots and cabin crew in a restructuring programme which could also involve unpaid leave and salaries being slashed by up to 20%, as well as the closure of a number of aircraft bases across Europe.