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Virgin Atlantic to Remove 3,150 Jobs and Boeing 747 Fleet
Virgin Atlantic has announced that up to a third of its workforce will be made redundant as the airline attempts to “reshape and resize” itself for the future. On top of the job cuts, Virgin will remove the Boeing 747 from its fleet and will also move out of Gatwick Airport in an effort to reduce costs.
In a public statement, the airline highlights a number of changes that will take effect immediately in an effort to “reduce costs, preserve cash and to protect as many jobs as possible.”
One of the biggest decisions is the removal of seven 747s from operational service. This will leave the airline with a fleet of 35 aircraft comprised of the Airbus A330, Airbus A350 XWB and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to operate its holiday and long-haul routes in the future. So far, Virgin has taken delivery of four A350-1000 aircraft with another eight on the way. Also, the airline is due to start receiving the first of 14 A330-900neo aircraft in 2021 as part of a three-year program to replace four A330-200s and ten A330-300s.
Like most, if not all, airlines across the globe, Virgin dramatically reduced its flying program following the spread of coronavirus and the subsequent travel restrictions that came into place. Since then, the airline has been operating all-cargo flights across the globe to help transport medical equipment to the United Kingdom.
However, the drop in revenues, as well as the requirement to refund future travel affected by the virus, has forced Virgin into a financial position where its very existence is now in jeopardy.
In a public statement, the airline said it will continue “to explore all available options to obtain additional external funding” after the U.K. government told the airline to look elsewhere for a 500 million-pound ($622 million) loan to help keep the airline afloat. Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic’s founder, personally offered to put his private Caribbean island up for any loan agreement.
Immediately following the reduction in flying, all pilots took a 47 percent pay cut and were also furloughed along with most of the airline staff onto the U.K. government furlough program. However, this has not stopped the requirement for job cuts.
According to the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), the union representing many pilots in the U.K., it is expected that 426 pilots, equivalent to 42 percent of the pilot population, will be made redundant. Over 1500 cabin crew will also be part of the 3,150 jobs cut across the business.
“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 CEO Shai Weiss said.
“To safeguard our future and to emerge from this crisis a sustainable business, now is the time for further decisive action,” he added.
Another big decision that was announced was the closure of Virgin’s Gatwick hub. The airline operated its first flight out of the south London airport to Newark back in 1984 and slowly built up a modest flying program with routes to North America and the Caribbean.
Although it will retain its slot portfolio at Gatwick for any future return, the airline will focus its operations out of the two other airports it currently operates out of, Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport.
Wiess finished by saying, “Our vision for Virgin Atlantic remains the same — to become the most loved travel company, for our people and our customers. Once the crisis stabilizes, Virgin Atlantic has an important role to play in contributing to the UK’s economic recovery, providing essential connectivity and competition.”
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