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Virgin Atlantic Confirms Plans to Make an Additional 1,150 Employees Redundant on “Bittersweet” Day

Virgin Atlantic Confirms Plans to Make an Additional 1,150 Employees Redundant on “Bittersweet” Day

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The embattled airline Virgin Atlantic confirmed plans to make an additional 1,150 employees redundant. The announcement came a day after Sky News leaked details of the plan before workers had been told. The airline has already laid-off 3,150 employees, including 200 pilots and 1,540 cabin crew in response to the dramatic and continued drop in travel demand caused by the Corona crisis.

Combined, the job losses mean that Virgin Atlantic has lost around 56 per cent of its workforce since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Chief executive Shai Weiss said it was “bittersweet” to be announcing the job losses on the same day that Virgin Atlantic completed a £1.2 billion recapitalisation that will secure the airline’s future over the coming months. “After the sacrifices so many of our people have made, further reducing the number of people we employ is heart-breaking but essential for survival,” Weiss told staffers on Friday.

“There will be a recovery, the timing and speed of which is uncertain. When our customers return to the skies we will be there to welcome them onboard with belief in our future. It is then that we will appreciate that everything we have done, painful to so many, was worth it,” he continued.

To get to that point sooner, Weiss called for the immediate introduction of passenger COVID-19 testing to enable the easing of travel restrictions. Flights to and from North America accounts for around 70 per cent of the airline’s network but British and European passengers have been barred from entering the United States since March.

In the opposite direction, American passengers entering the UK must endure a 14-day quarantine – the prospect of which has effectively killed transatlantic travel.

“It’s clear that the introduction of passenger testing is the only way to enable the removal of travel restrictions and open up flying to key markets,” Weiss continued.

Talks are said to be taking place between U.S and UK authorities over opening an airbridge between New York and London but even that proposal might not be greenlighted until at least December.

Meanwhile, any U.S. border restrictions are unlikely to be lifted until after the Presidential election in November at the earliest. British lawmakers have refused to even entertain the idea of COVID-19 testing to release passengers from heavy-handed quarantine rules despite mounting pressure from big business and voters.

On top of the new job losses, Virgin said it intends to mitigate cabin crew job losses by funding its own furlough scheme that would see crew paid up to 80 per cent of their wages even if there’s no work for them to do. The British government has spent billions of pounds on its own furlough scheme (officially known as Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) but this is due to end in October.

Up to 600 cabin crew jobs are hoped to be saved through this scheme.

Talks will trade unions will now restart with a final decision on job losses set to be announced in 45-days.

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