Virgin Atlantic Airline planes are pictured at the apron at Manchester Airport in north-west England, on June 8, 2020, as the UK government's planned 14-day quarantine for international arrivals to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus begins.
OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
  • Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic airline plans to restart flights to some destinations starting in July.
  • Flights between OR Tambo and Heathrow are expected to resume in September, according to a "rough timeline".
  • Virgin, which only flies long-haul international routes, has not flown passengers since April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The airline is 49% owned byDelta, and has cut more than 3,000 jobs, retired some planes, and closed bases to try and cut costs during the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.

Virgin Atlantic announced Monday that it will resume passenger flights to markets around the world, as countries begin to cautiously lift coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions.

Flights between Johannesburg's OR Tambo and London's Heathrow airport are scheduled to resume in September, it said.

US and European airlines have seen some travel demand return through May and June, with forward bookings for the northern-hemisphere summer also picking up. However, the vast majority of that demand has been for domestic travel.

While this has allowed some mainline and budget airlines to add capacity to their domestic and short-haul networks and reconfigure their network plans, other airlines that focus exclusively on long-haul travel, have remained grounded.

For Virgin Atlantic, which operates long-haul flights through its UK hubs, options during the pandemic have been scarce. The airline had planned to build up a domestic network through its acquisition of regional airline Flybe in 2019, but the smaller carrier became the first airline victim of the pandemic when it collapsed in early-March. Virgin Atlantic is 49% owned by Delta, with the remaining 51% owned by billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

As countries began imposing travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for border-crossers, Virgin suspended passenger flights effective April 20. The airline has continued to fly cargo using passenger jets.

Virgin has openly discussed its dire financial situation during the pandemic. The airline said in May that it would cut more than 3,000 jobs and close its base at London Gatwick. It has appealed unsuccessfully for a bailout from the British government. Branson has offered his private island as collateral for a bailout or loan.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian has said that Delta would not offer a cash injection to save Virgin from a possible bankruptcy restructuring. UK foreign ownership laws would prevent Delta or any other foreign investor from increasing its stake.

Virgin Atlantic to resume passenger service starting in July

David Slotnick/Business Insider

Virgin will resume passenger flights from London Heathrow to the following destinations:

  • Hong Kong - resumes July 20
  • New York JFK; Los Angeles - resumes July 21
  • Barbados - resumes August 1
  • Shanghai - resumes August 4
  • San Francisco - resumes August 4
  • Tel Aviv - resumes August 9
  • Miami - resumes August 18
  • Lagos - resumes August 23
  • Orlando - resumes August 24, subject to CDC approval (Virgin will also fly to Orlando from Manchester)
  • Atlanta - August 25

The airline also announced a rough timeline to resume service from London Heathrow to the following cities:

  • Washington, DC; Seattle; Las Vegas - resumes September, 2020
  • Mumbai; Delhi - resumes September, 2020
  • Johannesburg - resumes September, 2020
  • Boston - resumes October, 2020
  • Montego Bay, Antigua, Grenada and Tobago (via Antigua) - resumes October, 2020
  • Barbados (from Manchester) - resumes October, 2020

Virgin Atlantic will also resume routes to Hong Kong, New York, and Los Angeles, but several current travel restrictions could significantly limit demand for the earliest flights if the restrictions remain in place.

The UK requires anyone entering the country to self-quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their citizenship status or where they are coming from.

The US, meanwhile, has temporarily banned non-residents from entering the country if they have been to certain countries within the past 14 days, including the UK.

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