Virgin Atlantic is grounding 85% of its fleet and asking workers to take eight weeks of unpaid leave due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The scheduled cuts to the various routes will be implemented between now and April the airline announced earlier today.
Rough turbulence for Virgin Atlantic
One route that will be cut immediately is the London Heathrow to Newark, New Jersey, route.
BREAKING: Virgin Atlantic plans to cut about 80% of flights each day by the 26th of March, grounding 75% of planes by then. They are also asking staff to take 8 weeks of unpaid leave during the next three months.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 16, 2020
Despite UK airlines not being impacted by the U.S. travel ban instituted by President Trump, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak does continue to severely disrupt airlines around the world as people are asked to stay at home and not travel or group together.
Virgin Atlantic is asking its employees to take eight weeks of unpaid leave over the next three months, and the airline plans deduct it from employees’ paychecks over the course of the next six months.
Despite spreading out the pay cut, the reality is that employees are losing two full months of pay. The moves on the heels of Virgin Atlantic is asking the government for a substantial bailout over the impact of coronavirus.
In an official statement, Virgin Atlantic said:
The aviation industry is facing unprecedented pressure. We are appealing to the Government for clear, decisive and unwavering support.
Our industry needs emergency credit facilities to a value of £5-7.5bn, to bolster confidence and to prevent credit card processors from withholding customer payments. We also need slot alleviation for the full summer 2020 season, so we can match supply to demand – reducing costs and preventing unviable flying and corresponding CO2 emissions.
With this support, airlines including Virgin Atlantic, can weather this storm and emerge in a position to assist the nation’s economic recovery and provide the passenger and cargo connectivity that business and people across the country rely on.
Additional measures being taken
Virgin Atlantic is also putting pay increases on hold until 2021, reducing sick pay, and reducing its employee pension contributions. The airline is also offering voluntary redundancies and sabbaticals of between six to twelve months.
Richard Branson is begging Boris Johnson for £7.5bn to keep his Virgin Atlantic airline afloat. The poor would be sanctioned for such crassness.
— StrongerStabler (@StrongerStabler) March 15, 2020
The executive leadership of the airline is feeling far less of a pinch than the average employee over the impact of coronavirus. CEO Shai Weiss is taking a 20 percent pay cut for the rest of the year while the executive leadership team is taking pay cuts of 15 percent.
Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson is getting hammered on social media. People are pointing out that he is reportedly worth over US$4 billion (Forbes currently has him worth $3.7 billion after losing $311 million due to the recent stock market plunge), moved out of the UK for tax purposes, and sued the NHS after losing out on a contract. (The NHS settled with Branson out of court.)