Ailing Virgin Atlantic has today announced the measures it is taking to try and keep alive as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and global downturn in air travel.
Having already been put up for sale by Virgin Group, which owns 51% of the airline (alongside Delta’s 49% stake), the airline needs to make drastic cuts to costs as it scales operations back to a much leaner existence.
So what are the plans put forward by Virgin Atlantic?
Unfortunately, more than 3,000 jobs will be lost at Virgin Atlantic out of its 10,000 person workforce. This represents 30% of the workforce, and comes shortly after British Airways announced it was cutting 28% of its own workforce. It is a major blow to the aviation industry in the UK.
Boeing 747 Retirement
Virgin Atlantic has seven Boeing 747-400s in its fleet. These were used mostly on flights out of Manchester and Glasgow, and were to be phased out over coming years.
They are now to be retired immediately, however.
The aircraft are temporarily parked at the airline’s bases, including the special Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge livery aircraft, G-VLIP, which is parked at Manchester.
The Boeing 747 is an iconic type within Virgin’s fleet. The airline commenced operations in 1984 with a 747-200 aircraft, and has continually operated the type ever since.
In addition to phasing out the 747 fleet, Virgin Atlantic has already retired its Airbus A340-600 fleet at the start of the crisis.
It will also get ride of four A330 aircraft by 2022.
Again, like British Airways’ recent announcement, Virgin Atlantic has followed suit with confirmation that can not rule out ending flights out of London Gatwick.
In the short term it will move its flying programme from Gatwick to Heathrow to consolidate operations “in line with customer demand.”
Gatwick was the place Virgin Atlantic first began flying in 1984, and the announcement means another major blow for the London airport.
The airline says of its future fleet and operations:
As Virgin Atlantic aims to establish itself as the sustainability leader, it will fly only wide-body, twin-engine aircraft from London Heathrow and Manchester to the most popular destinations. It will be moving its flying programme from London Gatwick to London Heathrow, with the intention of retaining its slot portfolio at London Gatwick, so it can return in line with customer demand.
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.
Shai Weiss, CEO, 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.