Virgin Atlantic has announced at 2pm BST today that it’s to cut 3,000 jobs and will cease operations at Gatwick, concentrating on Heathrow as its primary hub.
It’s not entirely clear yet if the company, which is based not far from Gatwick, will close its larger maintenance operation at the airport, which it uses primarily for long haul flights for Virgin Holidays.
The level of redundancies would suggest it was likely to close. On top of that Virgin Atlantic has used Gatwick for the operation of its remaining 744 fleet, all of which were due to be replaced by A350-1000’s.
This now puts the order for the full 12 aircraft in jeopardy with Airbus. It was always intended to operate five from Heathrow – as the airline did with 5 744’s, and the rest from Gatwick, with flights from Gatwick also servicing Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow seasonally in recent years.
All of the remaining Boeing 747-400’s operating from Gatwick will be retired immediately, ending the airline’s long relationship with the type.
The decision is a huge blow for Gatwick Airport, already facing the potential loss of British Airways (but don’t be surprised if they now change tack and stay once they see the second of their main long haul competitors leave, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic were their main rivals there on long haul).
Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO, 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.”
The pilots’ union, BALPA, said 426 pilots were at risk of losing their jobs with the airline.
The airline is cutting its overall fleet to 36 aircraft, presumably made up of 10 A333’s, 17 789’s, 7 A35K’s (3 are in advanced assembly, 4 in service), and a pair of A332’s.
Virgin is said to be on the cusp of securing private investment but the government seems extremely reluctant to to make any effort to help airlines or airports. Quite how and why it bailed out easyJet so fast when it was not in trouble, is still puzzling many.
Virgin Atlantic started operations at Gatwick back in 1984, only later being allowed by the Government to operate at Heathrow, much to the disgust of British Airways Chairman at the time, Lord King.