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Virgin Atlantic to ground up to 85% of its aircraft and cancel 80% of its flights

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Following the announcement by IAG this morning that BA, Iberia and Aer Lingus will – between them – be grounding 75% of their capacity on 1st April, Virgin Atlantic has now announced what it will do.

The statement is below but here is a summary:

Cuts to services to begin tomorrow, Tuesday 17th

By 26th March, 80% of services will be suspended and 75% of aircraft grounded

At some points in April, 85% of aircraft will be grounded

Heathrow to Newark is terminated permanently

All staff to be asked to take 2 months unpaid leave over the next 3 months

All staff to be offered voluntary redundancy

The airline is requesting an emergency £5bn-£7.5bn credit line secured by the Government to be opened up the whole UK airline industry, although IAG is resisting this.  This is primarily to give Visa, Mastercard and Amex confidence to release customer payments to the airline.

It is also pressing the European Union to extend its slot waiver for the entire Summer 2020 season, to avoid Virgin having to launch ghost flights from the start of July to retain its Heathrow slots.

Virgin Atlantic to ground up to 85% of its aircraft

Here is an extract from the Virgin Atlantic statement.

Last week saw a rapid acceleration of the impact of Covid-19 on global aviation and tourism. The World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a global pandemic on Wednesday 11 March, as cases continue to rise. An increasing number of countries are now closing their borders – most significantly, the US, where a travel embargo from the UK comes into force on Tuesday 17 March.

Though this was expected, it has accelerated the sharp and continual drop in demand for flights across Virgin Atlantic’s network, meaning immediate and decisive action is needed. The safety and wellbeing of our people and our customers is always our number one priority. Today, Virgin Atlantic will put drastic measures in place to ensure cash is preserved, costs are controlled, and the future of the airline is safeguarded.

The situation is deteriorating at pace and the airline hasseen several days of negative bookings, driven by a huge volume of cancellations as customers choose to stay at home. Significantly, the European Commission has announced a suspension of the ‘use it or lose it’ slot rules until 30 June 2020, enabling the airline to consolidate schedules and ground aircraft immediately.

Given the unprecedented circumstances and the severity of the outlook, the following immediate action will be taken:

From Tuesday 17 March 2020

Virgin Atlantic will reduce its schedule, prioritising core routes based on customer demand.

This change amounts approximately 80% reduction in flights per day by 26 March. As a direct consequence we will be parking approximately 75% of our fleet by 26 March and at points in April will go up to 85%.

Owing to restrictions to international travel, the airline is reducing services to focus on core routes, depending on customer demand. This will be subject to constant review as the situation evolves. Our London Heathrow – Newark route will be permanently terminated with immediate effect.

As a direct result of this action the airline will need to further reduce its cost base. Staff will be asked to take eight weeks unpaid leave over the next three months, with the cost spread over six months’ salary, to drastically reduce costs without job losses.

The airline is grateful to have the support of BALPA and UNITE and the workforces they represent in agreeing to support unpaid leave, alongside other extensive measures.

The following steps to further reduce costs include:

Offering a one-time voluntary severance package to all employees

Offering a sabbatical of 6-12 months

Deferring annual pay increases until review in January 2021

Reducing employer pension contribution for a period of one year

Continuing to offer an enhanced company sick pay policy, however, with terms reduced to 12 weeks full pay

CEO Shai Weiss has extended his 20% pay cut to the end of 2020, with the Executive Leadership Team agreeing a decrease of 15% for the same period.

Comments (73)

  • Yawn says:

    Amusingly, I received an e-mail from Virgin just today announcing that it won’t be charging FX fees within Europe… I suppose that perk won’t really cost them anything in the short term.

  • Anon says:

    Yes, I’ve got a flight in May with them to the US (at the moment restrictions are ending mid-April), and in manage my booking everything showing as normal.

    So maybe news of cancellations and their full effects will be shown in the coming days?

  • Henry says:

    Branson not putting his hand in his pocket and asking employees to take the hit is going viral on social media and people are giving him lots of bad publicity.
    This will end up costing Branson/Virgin far more in future bookings and revenue in the long run than if he had paid staff out of his own pocket.
    Scary stuff once negativity on social media spreads about your brand it spreads so fast and once the damage is done its very difficult to repair.

    • Paul Pogba says:

      Ryanair have proven it doesn’t matter what people think of your figure head or how badly you treat your customers if the tickets are the right price, they’ll sell. I know remainers that still drink in Wetherspoons. Talk is cheap.

      • Shoestring says:

        why would Remainers *not* continue to drink in Wetherspoons just because they disagreed with Tim Martin on Brexit?

        • Andy says:

          Because the most rabid ones would cut their nose off to spite their face 😂

        • Callum says:

          It’s pretty normal to not want to finance people you profoundly disagree with. Especially as Wetherspoons was used to campaign for Brexit and was full of propaganda.

          It didn’t bother me, but I’ve temporarily barred myself from the US for similar reasons.

  • Linda Kirkland says:

    We are supposed to travel in less than 72 hours with virgin to Miami We have tried to contact them via messaging. They keep sending standard response that they will respond soon and then send another asking if we are happy with the resolution! Our flight is still showing as going although it is not available to rebook. We will have no choice but to sit on the phone for hours today but are we entitled to refund when flight status still shows as the flight is still going?

  • Dee says:

    Does anyone have any idea how people already out of the country get back again, given most airlines are cancelling most flights? We’re currently in New Zealand with 2 weeks of our holiday remaining……

    • Alex Sm says:

      My Polish colleague is in Chile and does not know what to do, they are due to fly home next week but all flights are cancelled. They should retain some skeleton services and provide connections to people to come home at least. No one is thinking about that properly

  • JdeW says:

    We had booked Virgin Premium for my elderly mother in law to visit us in UK from USA arriving 3 April dep. 9 May. At 92 her doctor in the US told her not to travel and when I contacted VA on 5 March they offered a voucher valid through to 30 Jan 2021, with a date of 3 April 2020 by which we had to provide dates for the rebooked flights. With a doctor’s letter, they agreed to waive the $300 change fee. Any subsequent changes to the rebooked flights would also incur a $300 change fee, again waived on production of a 2nd doctor’s letter. I am guessing that things have moved on substantially from 5 March (and I have still to send them the doctor’s letter) but the flights we booked for her are still showing as “On Time” on the VA website. Presumably, if VA now ground all these planes and cancel US/UK flights I should be eligible for a refund ? Any thoughts?

  • Jack says:

    Relevant question, I have a Valid ESTA & currently in US , concerned with airline flight reductions will be unable to leave back to UK within the 90 day ESTA visa time…whilst not urgent for me to be back in UK, anyone know whether this could be an issue & how if anything has been implemented or organized?

    • Alex Sm says:

      Lots of my Russian friends are in Europe and their visas are near expiry (thanks to very strict Schengen policies) but no-one told them if they are to be forgiven if they overstay. This just adds insult to an injury… Same about UK and Ireland

      • Andy says:

        I would have thought there would be some lee-way. What a headline that would be…Europe fines Russians for not leaving Europe…but fails to stop illegal immigrants coming in?

    • KINGB says:

      Its not an issue if your esta expires whilst you are in the US. infact on your passport you can see that you’ve been given 3 months to stay in the USA. So you will be fine!

  • KINGB says:

    OT: Wondering if someone could help please.

    i’ve some MR points from my AMEX that ive transferred to my KLM Flying Blue account, I was wondering if it was possible to transfer points between AF KLM DELTA VS? Is that possible at all at the minute?

    I appreciate the help!