April 17, 2024

Virgin plans to leave Gatwick

By Bev Fearis, published 7/05/20

Virgin Atlantic has confirmed plans to cut a third of its workforce and said it will not resume Gatwick flights when the coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted.

The airline has begun a consultation period with unions for 3,150 job cuts across all areas of its business, including around 425 pilots.

Virgin planned to operate flights from Gatwick to six destinations this summer – Rolando, Montego Bay, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada and Tobago – and had also been due to launch non-stop flights between Gatwick and New York JFK on May 21. On May 22 its partner, Delta, had been set to launch non-stop flights from the West Sussex airport to Boston.

But Virgin is now saying that when it resumes flying it will only operate from London Heathrow and Manchester, although it may return to Gatwick for summer flying ‘in line with customer demand’.

Announcing the cuts, Virgin said it continues to explore all available options to secure additional external funding to survive the crisis and is still having ‘constructive’ discussions with several stakeholders, including the UK Government.

CEO Shai Weiss said: “We have weathered many storms since our first flight 36 years ago, but none has been as devastating as COVID-19 and the associated loss of life and livelihood for so many.”

Virgin’s announcement came after British Airways and Ryanair also confirmed sweeping job cuts and warned it could take several years for air travel demand to return to 2019 levels. Virgin believes it could take up to three years.

Unite the union said the job losses were ‘another devastating blow to the UK’s beleaguered aviation industry’.

“There have been 18,000 job losses announced in the UK aviation sector in the last week alone and this makes the case even more strongly that the aviation industry-specific package Unite has consistently called for, and the government has promised, must now be delivered,” said Unite Assistant General Secretary Diana Holland.

Earlier this week, pilots union BALPA urged the UK Government to call a moratorium on aviation job losses and said a strategic plan needs to be put in place to ensure the sector can survive. It also accused airlines of deliberately exploiting the situation.

General Secretary Brian Strutton said: “BALPA will not stand by and watch the industry crumble or allow airlines to use this as a chance to make unfair redundancies or make unnecessary reductions to terms and conditions.

“The Government needs to step in now not only with a package of support, but also to put a proper aviation plan in place, agreed by all stakeholders, to avoid opportunistic attacks on terms and conditions. In the meantime there should be no knee-jerk decisions and a moratorium on any job losses.”