Coronavirus: Virgin Atlantic Cuts 80% of Flights, Staff Asked to Take Eight Weeks’ Unpaid Leave

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 11: A Virgin Airways aircraft at Heathrow Airport on October 11, 2016 in London, England. The UK government has said it will announce a decision on airport expansion soon. Proposals include either a third runway at Heathrow, an extension of a runway at the airport or …
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British airline Virgin Atlantic has announced that it will be grounding 85 per cent of its aeroplanes by next month and cutting 80 per cent of its flights due to the impact of coronavirus.

Citing the World Health Organization (WHO) categorising the global COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic and the impact of the virus on travel and tourism, Virgin Atlantic released a statement saying: “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.”

From Tuesday, the airline will begin reducing its schedule of flights by 80 per cent by March 26th. It will be parking 75 per cent of the fleet by March increasing to 85 per cent by April, focusing the remaining services core routes.

Staff have also been asked to take eight weeks’ unpaid leave over the next three months with the costs spread out over six months’ salary to reduce costs without job losses. The move was endorsed by unions UNITE and BALPA.

Also on Monday, Irish airlines Ryanair announced plans to ground the majority of its fleet across Europe over the next seven to ten days due to the pandemic. The Associated Press reports that British Airways is also scaling back its flights with capacity set to be reduced by 75 per cent by April and May.

The wire service also reported that German touring firm TUI is suspending “the vast majority of all travel operations until further notice, including package travel, cruises and hotel operations”.

Meanwhile, British budget airline easyJet will also be scaling back operations. The Luton-based airliner said in a statement reported by Sky News: “These actions will continue on a rolling basis for the foreseeable future and could result in the grounding of the majority of the easyJet fleet.”

Scandanavian airline SAS announced it was laying off 10,000 staff — 90 per cent of its workforce — noting they were taking a “temporary break” from business. Swedish broadcaster SVT reports the remarks of air industry analyst Jan Ohlson who said of the European aviation industry: “It’s full panic. Polish Lot and Air Baltic have stopped flying altogether, they have stopped all traffic. Lufthansa has stopped 50 percent of all traffic.”

Earlier this month, British short-haul airline flybe went into administration due to a fall in bookings because of coronavirus, with 2,400 staff losing their jobs.

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