Virgin Atlantic plans to have all its aircraft back in the skies by October or November and will start recalling hundreds of laid-off employees despite concerns that Coronavirus variants could delay the easing of travel restrictions and dampen the demand for international air travel – especially amongst all-important business travellers.
During a virtual session at the World Aviation Festival, the embattled airline’s chief executive Shai Weiss told attendees that Virgin Atlantic was confident that it would significantly ramp up its operations within the next few months as the vaccine rollout gathers pace around the world.
The London-based airline, which was founded by Sir Richard Branson, is heavily reliant on travel restrictions being lifted between the UK and the United States – the earliest that may happen is May 17 on the British side but there is still a lot of uncertainty and no official announcements will be made until next month.
The full restart of transatlantic flights will also hinge on the Biden administration lifting a travel ban on the UK – White House sources claim this might come at some point in May and the UK’s highly successful vaccine rollout has lifted hopes the more than year-long travel ban could soon end.
And just as hopes emerge that some travel restrictions could be lifted, other important markets for a Virgin Atlantic are being closed down. Several countries, including India, Pakistan and South Africa have all been added to England’s travel Red List.
Weiss, however, said the airline had enough liquidity to ride out the crisis and that current forecasts saw Virgin Atlantic making a profit by 2022. This year and next, the airline could make a combined loss of over $1 billion.
At the height of the pandemic, there were fears Virgin Atlantic would go out of business as Sir Richard scrambled to get investors to inject more cash into the business. In an attempt to convince shareholders the business was still viable, Virgin Atlantic axed over 50 per cent of its workforce as it hunkered down to survive the crisis.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.