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A Virgin Atlantic 787-9 landing in Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Virgin Atlantic Struggles to Crew July Flights Following Redundancies

Virgin Atlantic has written to its pilots asking for volunteers to operate flights in July, admitting it didn’t have enough crew to cover all flights, following the announcement from the airline regarding the resumption of flights next month.

An internal email seen by AirlineGeeks was sent out by the Crewing Duty Manager, saying, “We have a number of trips in open time for July that we could not cover at the rostering stage. Therefore we are asking if any of you have annual leave and you are willing to operate over your leave, please can you let us know?”

Like many other airlines across Europe, Virgin is currently going through a process of job reductions, initially planned at around 3,150 across all departments. This included around 300 pilots, down from the initial number of 426 after a number of voluntary redundancies.

Such communication will bring disappointment to those who have been made redundant over the past few weeks as part of Virgin’s restructuring plans. This included the removal of all seven Boeing 747s from the fleet, which are currently being flown to Spain for storage and subsequent scrapping.

The airline has touted its continued flights of personal protective equipment (PPE) on behalf of the U.K.’s Department of Health and National Health Service as one way for it to not only bring in supplementary revenue but also keep crew and aircraft flying. In a statement, the airline said it continues to operate these flights as necessary with the correct number of crew onboard.

“Due to the impact of the COVID-19, pandemic passenger flying has been paused, but our cargo operation has continued keeping vital global supply chains open,” an airline spokesperson said in a statement. “We have successfully partnered with the Department of Health and NHS on daily PPE charter flights from Shanghai and Beijing, bringing over 1,000 tonnes off essential medical equipment into the U.K. Thanks to the [Civil Aviation Authority, British aviation’s main regulatory body], we received special dispensation to operate these NHS charters with two sets of crew on each flight to ensure they are able to rest in line with safety guidelines.”

The airline also stressed the dynamic nature of its current situation and said it believed it would be successful in properly staffing each of its flights.

“We have ample crew to cover our flights, but our current flying programme is dynamic and requires flexibility in our crewing, and we’re grateful to our pilots and cabin crew for fully supporting our operations. We remain confident in the steps we have taken to ensure we can safely continue to crew our flights,” the spokesperson said.

Virgin has also pulled out of London Gatwick airport and will operate mainly out of Heathrow and Manchester. With the 747 gone, as well as, the Airbus A340-600, Virgin will now operate twin-engine aircraft in the future, including the newly introduced A350-100, which Virgin has taken four out the seven A350s on order, joining 17 787-9s and 14 A330 aircraft in the fleet.

The airline announced earlier this week the resumption of 17 destinations across this summer to destinations across the U.S., Hong Kong and Shanghai. Flights to San Fransico will resume on Aug. 4, Tel Aviv on Aug. 9, Miami on Aug. 18, Lagos on Aug. 23 and Atlanta on Aug. 25.

Further routes to Washington, Seattle, Las Vegas, Mumbai, Delhi and Johannesburg will restart in September, with many of its Caribbean destinations beginning in October.

The financial future of Virgin Atlantic is yet to be confirmed, with the U.K. government telling the company to go and find a private investment solution and exhaust all possible avenues before asking the taxpayer for bailout money. Richard Branson, founder and stakeholder in the airline, has already seen Virgin Australia fall into administration. Branson has offered his private Caribbean island, Necker Island, up for collateral against any financial investment to save Virgin Atlantic.


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