Tag Archives: Virgin Atlantic Airways

Virgin Atlantic early retires its remaining Boeing 747-400s, will cut 3,150 jobs

Virgin Atlantic Airways has announced the immediate retirement of its seven remaining Boeing 747-400s.

The airline was previously planning to retire the type in 2021.

The airline on May 5 issued this statement:

As Virgin Atlantic aims to establish itself as the sustainability leader, it will fly only wide-body, twin-engine aircraft from London Heathrow and Manchester to the most popular destinations. It will be moving its flying programme from London Gatwick to London Heathrow, with the intention of retaining its slot portfolio at London Gatwick, so it can return in line with customer demand.

From May 5, Virgin Atlantic will no longer use all of its seven Boeing 747-400s, with four A330-200 aircraft retiring in early 2022 as planned.  By 2022 the simplified, greener fleet will comprise of 36 twin engine aircraft reducing CO2/RTK emissions by an estimated further 10%, building on the 18% efficiency already achieved between 2007-2019.

Most are now in storage at Manchester or Glasgow.

Even in the toughest times, the people of Virgin Atlantic are what sets it apart and decisions taken have been aimed at preserving as many jobs as possible. In order for the airline to emerge from the crisis, regrettably it must reduce the number of people employed and today the company is announcing a planned reduction of 3,150 jobs across all functions. Working closely with unions BALPA and Unite, a company-wide consultation period of 45 days begins today.

Note: For the record, the pictured Boeing 747-400 G-VROS (below) operated the last revenue flight on March 31, 2020 on flight VS608 from Los Angeles to London (Heathrow).

Named "English Rose"

Above Copyright Photo: Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747-443 G-VROS (msn 30885) LGW (Robbie Shaw). Image: 945391.

Virgin Atlantic Airways aircraft slide show:

Virgin Atlantic to deliver more than 43 million items of PPE and medical supplies to the UK

Virgin Atlantic is set to deliver more than 43 million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the UK.

Cargo being loaded

The cargo-only flights have been chartered by the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS throughout May, June and July.

Virgin Atlantic was the first British airline to resume flights to China on April 3rd following special dispensation from the CAA and assistance from the British Embassy in China. Since then Virgin Atlantic has operated nine 26-hour round trips between London Heathrow and Shanghai. The flights are manned by seven pilots and four cabin crew who rotate duties and rest time.

Each flight contains on average 16 tonnes of essential items needed to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. The flights use both the cargo hold as well as passenger seats and overhead lockers to carry on average 1,400 boxes of essential equipment.

‘With the country in lockdown, planes are touching down with perhaps their most precious passengers yet.’

From today daily flights will be arriving from China with crucial PPE. @SwainITV was given exclusive access to one of those planes.

Embedded video

Since the first charter on April 3rd, which was supported by Virgin Unite and Virgin Group, more than 150 tonnes of medical supplies and PPE have been transported, including:

  • 66 ventilators,
  • More than two million face masks,
  • 600,000 face shields and visors,
  • one million disposable gloves,
  • 38,000 items for eye protection,
  • 125,000 protective coveralls and isolation gowns
  • more than 25,000 battery operated or manual ventilators

Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director, Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said: “We are so incredibly grateful for all the work our healthcare professionals are doing during this challenging time and we’re pleased we can play our part by bringing crucial medical supplies and PPE in to the UK for the NHS teams working on the front line.

“Despite a decrease in passengers travelling, demand to transport cargo remains strong, and our teams are working hard keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential supplies around the world. We’re looking forward to continuing to partner with the Department for Health and the NHS, working with them on daily flights from Shanghai to London throughout May, June and July transporting over 1,500 tonnes of supplies that the teams here in the UK urgently need to care for patients.”


Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “We’re proud to be working closely with Virgin Atlantic to keep the UK’s vital supply lines open during this challenging time. This outbreak has drastically changed our sector and we’re all playing our part by prioritising freight operations which have seen an exponential increase, with cargo only movements up by over 950 per cent in the past week. This focus means that critical medical supplies are getting into this country, ready for use by our frontline NHS workers.

“After overcoming COVID-19, aviation will be key to kickstarting the UK’s economic recovery. This is why we’re calling for standardised health screening procedures that will help to ensure the safety and peace of mind of our passengers and colleagues as the country looks towards a new normal.”

The emergence of COVID-19 has led to Virgin Atlantic operating cargo-only flights, a first for the airline since its launch in 1984. Special exemptions from the imposed travel restrictions for pilots and cabin crew – whose health and wellbeing remains our top priority – mean that cargo operations can continue, ensuring the airline can continue to support vital supply chains across the globe.

Virgin Atlantic’s first-ever cargo-only flight, VS698 from London Heathrow for New York JFK, took place on March 22, 2020.

The flights are operated in partnership with the UK Government and Virgin Atlantic. The British Embassy is working with the Department of Health and Social Care to procure medical equipment from China and deliver it to NHS hospitals all over the UK.

Virgin Atlantic parks its last three Airbus A340-600s at Bournemouth

Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A340-642 G-VWIN (msn 736) LHR (SPA). Image: 934153.

Virgin Atlantic Airways on March 24, 2020 decided to ferry its last three Airbus A340-600s (G-VWIN, G-VFIT and G-VNAP) from Prestwick International Airport (PIK) to Bournemouth (BOH) for storage. The last revenue flight was operated on March 8, 2020.

Last revenue flights:

G-VWIN – March 7, 2020 – flight VS58 Bridgetown, Barbados – London (Gatwick)

G-VFIT – March 8, 2020 – flight VS412 Lagos – London (Heathrow) (last revenue flight)

G-VNAP – February 15, 2020 – flight VS58 Bridgetown, Barbados – London (Gatwick)

Virgin Atlantic took delivery on July 22, 2002 of the first A340-600 (G-VSKY) as the launch customer. The type entered revenue service on August 1, 2002 on the London (Heathrow) – New York (JFK) route.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A340-642 G-VNAP (msn 622) (A big Virgin Atlantic thank you) LHR (Antony J. Best). Image: 945086.

Above Copyright Photo: Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A340-642 G-VNAP (msn 622) (A big Virgin Atlantic thank you) LHR (Antony J. Best). Image: 945086.

Top Copyright Photo: Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A340-642 G-VWIN (msn 736) LHR (SPA). Image: 934153.

Virgin Atlantic aircraft slide show:


Virgin Atlantic Airways operates its first all-cargo flight

From the Virgin Atlantic blog. By Michael Oakes.

On the surface of it, flight VS698 looked like any other flight to New York. Parked at Terminal 3’s Gate 13, G-VSPY, one of our Boeing 787-9s, had an 11:25 departure scheduled on Saturday, March 21, 2020. The aircraft was connected to the gate by an airbridge, had a full load of fuel, a flight plan to take it across the Atlantic, and had passed all final safety checks. This flight was Virgin Atlantic’s first ever cargo-only charter. The flight was going to depart with two pilots, one cabin crew member, and a belly full of pharmaceutical and medical products.

The Covid-19 crisis has created unprecedented levels of disruption which have hit the airline industry particularly hard. Travel restrictions being introduced around the world now prevent the majority of passengers from flying as freely as they usually do. Thousands of flights have been cancelled and aircraft have been grounded, including here at Virgin Atlantic. We’re currently only able to operate a handful of flights until the situation improves.

The cargo is security screened and picked ready for the flight

Loading onto the lorry which will take it to the aircraft side

But out of crisis, innovation is born. Although the medical crisis has led to a temporary decrease in passengers wanting to fly, cargo demand remains strong. With so many airlines cancelling flights, there has also been a dramatic decrease in cargo space available. Airline capacity across the Atlantic is a fraction of what it was a few months ago, but global trade continues, and vital supply chains need to be maintained.

Loading the Boeing 787-900

The Virgin Atlantic Cargo team spotted the opportunity and rose to the challenge. Every year, Virgin Atlantic transports over 200,000 tonnes of cargo on its global network. If you’ve ever flown with us, chances are you were sitting above all sorts of goods and products being shipped around the world. We bring salmon from lochs in Scotland to plates in Los Angeles, pharmaceuticals from scientists in Tel Aviv to patients in Lagos, fruit from farms in South Africa to mouths in London – the list goes on.

Global trade depends on airlines like Virgin Atlantic to get things from A to B, and that hasn’t stopped, even during the crisis we now face.  Our Cargo team swung into action and found a way to help customers, new and old, keep their freight moving while at the same time keeping some of our beautiful aircraft in the skies.

Captain Steve Wrigley, Senior First Officer James Bennett and Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director, Cargo.

Flight VS698 on 21 March was our first ever cargo-only charter flight. Captain Steve Wrigley and First Officer James Bennett were joined by just one other person, Cabin Service Supervisor Katie Lang. No passengers were onboard, but in the hold was 11 pallets of cargo being sent to the US by a UK-based pharmaceutical company. The aircraft will turn around in JFK and fly back to the UK full of inbound cargo.

Strapped in and ready to go…

“I must say, standing out on the ramp at an eerily quiet Heathrow today really brought home to me the scale of what’s happening here – and added to my feeling of immense pride as I watched our inaugural cargo-only charter get airborne, knowing the aircraft would have otherwise been sat on the ground if not for the herculean effort by our cargo team in making this happen, especially at such short notice and in these challenging times”. – Dominic Kennedy

You may be wondering why we’re able to fly cargo but not passengers. That’s a good question. Many of the Covid-19 travel restrictions that have been introduced have special exemptions for pilots and cabin crew operating flights. One of the reasons for this is because of the critical nature of what they do – without them, aircraft wouldn’t fly and global air freight would grind to a halt. Because of this, we’re able to fly aircraft in and out of airports.

Dom chats to cabin services supervisor Katie Lang just before departure.

So, what happens on a flight with no passengers? This isn’t actually an unusual sight – training flights, positioning flights (when we need to get an aircraft from, say Gatwick to Manchester), and maintenance flights (when our aircraft get some TLC with engineers) happen regularly. However, we’ve never operated a flight like VS698 before. For our pilots, there are no major changes. They need to make a few technical adjustments for weight – an aircraft full of passengers is quite heavy. For our cabin crew, just because there are no passengers doesn’t mean they get to kick back in Upper Class and watch a film on Vera. Cabin crew are busy throughout the entire flight, taking care of things ranging from performing regular safety checks and liaising with the flight crew.

Our all cargo flight ready to push back on its way to New York

But as cargo charters are virgin territory for Virgin Atlantic, it still takes some getting used to. This flight was possible thanks to the efforts of many people at Virgin Atlantic, including our commercial, engineering, airports and operations teams. Before getting called for this flight, Katie was on standby, ready to help customers get back home on rescue flights. On VS698 she was looking forward to getting to know Miss Moneypenny and help our cargo customers maintain access to global markets.

Until we’re able to welcome you back onboard, we’ll continue to fly cargo to destinations around the world. The next time you look up from self-isolation and see one of our aircraft in the sky, why not guess what’s onboard?

Virgin Atlantic aircraft photo gallery:

Virgin Atlantic to drastically reduce its schedule

Virgin Atlantic Airways made this announcement:

Last week saw a rapid acceleration of the impact of Covid-19 on global aviation and tourism. The World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a global pandemic on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, as cases continue to rise. An increasing number of countries are now closing their borders – most significantly, the US, where a travel embargo from the UK comes into force on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Though this was expected, it has accelerated the sharp and continual drop in demand for flights across Virgin Atlantic’s network, meaning immediate and decisive action is needed. The safety and wellbeing of our people and our customers is always our number one priority.

Virgin Atlantic will put drastic measures in place to ensure cash is preserved, costs are controlled, and the future of the airline is safeguarded.

The situation is deteriorating at pace and the airline has seen several days of negative bookings, driven by a huge volume of cancellations as customers choose to stay at home. Significantly, the European Commission has announced a suspension of the ‘use it or lose it’ slot rules until June 30, 2020, enabling the airline to consolidate schedules and ground aircraft immediately.

Given the unprecedented circumstances and the severity of the outlook, the following immediate action will be taken:

From Tuesday, March 17, 2020

  • Virgin Atlantic will reduce its schedule, prioritizing core routes based on customer demand. This change amounts approximately 80% reduction in flights per day by March 26. As a direct consequence we will be parking approximately 75% of our fleet by March 26 and at points in April will go up to 85%.
  • Owing to restrictions to international travel, the airline is reducing services to focus on core routes, depending on customer demand. This will be subject to constant review as the situation evolves. Our London Heathrow – Newark route will be permanently terminated with immediate effect.
  • As a direct result of this action the airline will need to further reduce its cost base. Staff will be asked to take eight weeks unpaid leave over the next three months, with the cost spread over six months’ salary, to drastically reduce costs without job losses.
  • The airline is grateful to have the support of BALPA and UNITE and the workforces they represent in agreeing to support unpaid leave, alongside other extensive measures.

The following steps to further reduce costs include:

  • Offering a one-time voluntary severance package to all employees
  • Offering a sabbatical of 6-12 months
  • Deferring annual pay increases until review in January 2021
  • Reducing employer pension contribution for a period of one year
  • Continuing to offer an enhanced company sick pay policy, however, with terms reduced to 12 weeks full pay ▪ CEO Shai Weiss has extended his 20% pay cut to the end of 2020, with the Executive Leadership Team agreeing a decrease of 15% for the same period.

These measures go above and beyond those already announced on March 4, 2020:

  • A company-wide recruitment freeze.
  • A restriction on all non-essential staff travel and training (*all safety and compliance training remains in place).
  • A proposed deferral of annual pay increases from March until August 2020, when affordability will be reassessed, based on the impact of Covid-19 at that point.

Furthermore, Virgin Atlantic has appealed to the Government for clear, decisive and unwavering support for the UK aviation sector, comprising:

  • Emergency credit facilities to a value of £5-7.5bn, to bolster confidence in the industry, and to prevent credit card processors from withholding customer payments.
  • Slot alleviation for the full summer 2020 season, enabling airlines to match supply to demand – reducing costs and preventing unnecessary flying and corresponding CO2 emissions.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson commented: “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.”

The Covid-19 situation is dynamic and fast-moving, and Virgin Atlantic continues to monitor it very closely, with the health and safety of customers and people remaining the absolute priority. All actions taken are guided by the World Health Organization (WHO), Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and by the latest advice provided by these experts.

Virgin Atlantic aircraft photo gallery:

Virgin Atlantic to waive change fees until September 30, 2020

Virgin Atlantic Airways made this announcement:

To provide greater flexibility to our customers with upcoming travel plans, we have introduced a flexible policy to waive the flight change fee for tickets issued from 04 March – 31 March 2020.

This relaxed policy is to give our customers flexibility to book throughout March with peace of mind there is the option to change flight date to a later time without a change fee. Subject to availability.

The policy applies to all routes in Virgin Atlantic’s international network, including services from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast airports, and tickets booked on Virgin Atlantic codeshare flights on transatlantic routes with its expanded joint venture partners; Delta, Air France and KLM.

To make your reservation please give our team a call on (UK) 0344 8747747 or (US) 1800 862 8621

Travel Dates Affected Destination Permitted Travel Period
04 March 2020 – 30 September 2020 VS issued tickets
From / to/ through
All Destinations when travelling on a VS/VS* codeshare Flight Number
Travel can be rebooked 04 March 2020 – 30 September 2020

Applies to VS and VS* tickets issued 04 March 2020 – 31 March 2020

Future Travel Rebooking Options:

1. When rebooked travel occurs on or before 30 September 2020 the change fee will be waived if ticket is reissued on or before 30 September 2020, though fare difference may apply.

a. A fare difference may apply when the original booking class is not available in the rebooked itinerary.

b. A fare difference may apply to new travel dates where the original fare rules do not permit new travel itinerary, PNR must be re-priced accordingly.

2. No refunds are permitted as part of this policy.

The health and wellbeing of our customers and crew is our highest priority. We are closely monitoring the situation and we’ll keep you updated. Please make sure we have your correct contact details in My booking.

You may find you are unable to check in online due to extra restrictions on travel to some destinations. Don’t worry, just make sure you leave enough time to check in at the airport. We recommend you arrive at least 2 hours before you are due to fly.

Please note there are no current travel restrictions into the UK.

Due to the ongoing situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we have made the decision to allow customers travelling to/from Italy until 31st March 2020 to change reschedule their travel if they wish.

Impacted Travel Dates Affected Destinations Permitted Travel Period
From 02 March 2020 until 31 March 2020 VS issued tickets from / to / through all airports in Italy Travel can be rebooked 02 March 2020 – 31 May 2020

Applies to VS and VS* tickets issued by 02 March 2020.

We are offering customers the following options:

1) Rebook (VS-VS*):

  • Rebook travel in the same booking class, or;
    • If original booking class isn’t available, re-book in the lowest available class in the same cabin (subject to the flight having a VS/VS* flight number)
    • No additional collection or change fee will be charged
  • Tickets must be re-issued on / before revised travel date
  • If rebooked travel happens outside of permitted travel period, no change fee will be charged, but fare difference will apply

2) Rebook (VS connections with Interline Partners):

Rebook travel in the same booking class, or;

  • If the original booking class is not available on the Interline Airline (OA) operated flight, fare difference will apply. Rebooking onto an alternative connecting carrier will be subject to fare rules
    • No change fee will be charged
  • Tickets must be re-issued on / before revised travel date
  • If rebooked travel happens outside of permitted travel period, no change fee will be charged, but fare difference will apply

3) Re-route:

  • Passengers may elect to an alternative routing to/from original origin and destination, subject to fare rules of the original ticket. Changes outside of fare rules will incur a charge for fare difference, though change fees will be waived
  • Passengers wishing to travel to/from an alternative destination on a VS/VS* service will be subject to a fare difference, but should not be charged any change fee provided new travel dates are within the permitted travel period
  • Rebook travel in the same booking class, or;
  • If original booking class isn’t available, re-book in the lowest available class in the same cabin
    • No additional collection or change fee will be charged
  • Tickets must be re-issued on / before revised travel date

Virgin Atlantic Airways aircraft photo gallery:

Virgin Atlantic to launch Manchester – Delhi and Manchester – Barbados service

Virgin Atlantic Airways has announced new flying from Manchester and London Heathrow with services taking to the skies from October 2020 onwards.

For the first time, Virgin Atlantic will fly to India from Manchester and coupled with the airline’s double daily service from London Heathrow to Delhi and daily service from London Heathrow to Mumbai, the airline will now offer over 600,000 seats per year between the UK and India.

In addition, Virgin Atlantic looks forward to adding a daily Cape Town service flying from London Heathrow complementing the existing service to Johannesburg. Increased flying between Manchester and Barbados and Heathrow and Havana will also offer customers more choice than ever before.

  • Manchester to Delhi

This year, Virgin Atlantic is celebrating its 20th anniversary of flying to Delhi and in addition to the airline’s twice daily service from London Heathrow, on October 26, 2020, the airline will launch new flying from Manchester to Delhi. Flying to India from Manchester for the very first, this new three times a week service will fly on an A330-200 aircraft. Operating on a Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the VS318 will depart Manchester at 16:40 landing the next morning in Delhi at 06:05, the return service, the VS319, will depart on a Tuesday, Friday or Sunday at 08:10 landing back at 12:10.

  • Manchester to Barbados

From January 2021, customers will now have more opportunities to fly to this jewel in the Caribbean than ever before. In addition to daily flights from London Gatwick and a seasonal flight from London Heathrow in winter, Virgin Atlantic will now fly a Boeing 747 three times a week on a Monday, Thursday and Saturday from Manchester.

  • London Heathrow to Cape Town

Sunseekers this winter can head down to South Africa on Virgin Atlantic’s new daily seasonal winter service flying between London Heathrow and Cape Town. Flying on a Boeing 787-9 aircraft, this new service launches on October 25, 2020 and will complement the existing daily Airbus A350 service to flying between London Heathrow and Johannesburg. Flight VS478 will operate as a night flight departing London Heathrow at 16:20 arriving into Cape Town at 05:55 whereas the inbound, flight VS479, will depart at 08:00 landing later that day at 18:00.

  • London Heathrow to Havana

As the only UK airline flying direct to Havana, Virgin Atlantic is delighted to add an additional weekly service to the city. Now flying three times a week on a Tuesday, Friday and Sunday on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, Virgin Atlantic is offering 45% more capacity compared to winter 2019 to this vibrant city.

Virgin Atlantic Airways aircraft photo gallery: