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Virgin Atlantic will cut 3,000 jobs and close its London Gatwick base to survive the pandemic

David Slotnick , Business Insider US
 May 06, 2020, 02:18 PM
  • Virgin Atlantic plans to cut more than 3,000 jobs and close its London Gatwick base as it tries to save cash and weather the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The airline also said it would retire its iconic Boeing 747-400 planes a year early.
  • Like most of the world's airlines, Virgin - which is 49% owned by Delta - has dealt with plummeting demand and revenue due to the pandemic.
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Virgin Atlantic, the UK-based airline owned primarily by Richard Branson's Virgin Group, announced Tuesday that it would cut 3,150 jobs as the airline struggles to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline said it would enter a 45-day consultation period, CNBC reported, during which it will work with labour unions representing its employees to develop a restructuring plan.

"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," Shai Weiss, the airline's CEO, said in a statement. "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."

As part of the restructuring, Virgin said it would accelerate the retirement of its iconic, but aging fleet of Boeing 747 jumbo jets. The airline had seven of the plane type remaining, which were expected to be retired by 2021. Virgin will ground the planes immediately.

The airline already accelerated retirements of its Airbus A340-600 fleet due to the drop in travel demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

David Slotnick/Business Insider
Virgin also said that it would consolidate its operations in London to cut costs, temporarily suspending flights from London's Gatwick airport and flying exclusively from Heathrow. The carrier suggested the move would not be permanent, and that Gatwick flights would resume when demand picks back up.

Virgin Atlantic, which operates exclusively as a long-haul international airline, has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic as global travel reached a standstill. Airlines around the world have lost billions of dollars in the months since the coronavirus outbreak became a global pandemic, with revenue streams drying up as fixed operating costs remain in place.

Virgin Atlantic, which is 51% owned by Virgin Group and 49% by US-based Delta Air Lines, has maintained some revenue by operating cargo flights, but has otherwise been in a dire financial situation.

Branson faced criticism last month when he asked the British government to help Virgin, despite his personal wealth.

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