Virgin Atlantic to retire all Boeing 747s "with immediate effect"

Virgin Atlantic prepares to become a smaller airline as Richard Branson's favourite child sprints to preserve cash.

By Bloomberg News, May 6 2020
Virgin Atlantic to retire all Boeing 747s

Virgin Atlantic will axe all of its Boeing 747 jumbo jets, abandon its London Gatwick hub and cut a third of its workforce to ride out the coronavirus crisis after struggling to secure a U.K. government bailout.

The carrier founded by billionaire Richard Branson said Tuesday it will focus on operating from its main London Heathrow base and Manchester. Routes from Gatwick, serving leisure markets including Orlando, Florida, and Barbados in the Caribbean, will now move to Heathrow.

“This is a devastating day for us,” Chief Executive Officer Shai Weiss said in an interview. “But we must be sustainably profitable to repay the financing we need, which means resizing and reshaping the business.”

As the global travel industry grinds to a halt because of the Covid-19 pandemic, carriers around the world are hacking back at staff levels, with some seeking multi-billion euro state bailouts.

Virgin’s arch rival British Airways is preparing to cut as many as 12,000 positions and is also looking at permanently exiting Gatwick, which attracts less business traffic than Heathrow.

Fewer planes, fewer flights

Virgin Atlantic will also slim its fleet from 45 planes to 36 as it braces for what may be a three-year slump in demand, CEO Weiss said.

This will begin with immediately and permanently grounding its seven Boeing 747 jumbo jets, with four Airbus A330s exiting in 2022 – by which time the fleet will have been pared to 36 newer Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 planes. Delivery schedules for eight A350 orders and 16 A330neo jets will be spaced out, though only two or three planes are due next year.

The Virgin Holidays division will also close 15% of its retail outlets and be rebranded as part of the airline. Weiss said the measures are necessary to deliver a return to profitability in 2021.

Discussions on potential funding with various parties, including Johnson’s government, are ongoing and have been constructive, according to the carrier, which continues to seek about £500 million pounds in support.

Virgin Atlantic plans to lease out its Gatwick takeoff and landing positions in the short term, and could initially bring back flights on a summer-only basis should demand permit. Frequencies will be reduced to some destinations but there are no plans to remove any from the network.

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Dec 2016

Total posts 43

Probably exactly what Virgin Australia will do if it survives, especially it's wide bodies

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2017

Total posts 36

I was cabin crew with Virgin Atlantic for 12 months 2011-12. It's a fabulous cattier when compared to other Euro carriers. They genuinely give a hoot about their customers and go all out to do their best. They keep the other lot honest and innovative. Their 747s are lovely and newly refirb'd, such a shame. And the service out of Gatwick is very robust and often full so I really hope they're able to make something of it in time to come. Gosh during school holidays they'd fill 3 747s Gatwick to Orlando, 2 out of Manchester and 1 from Glasgow. Scary times...

KLM - Flying Blue

05 Feb 2019

Total posts 39

I hope some of these great B-747's will be permanently displayed in Science and Tech Museums around the World, to the delight, satisfaction, and enjoyment of generations to come

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 62

To be expected from all airlines. I wonder how

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 62

I wonder how Virgin Cruises is surviving. Considering they only just launched. Have they actually had a sailing yet? As i thought they were starting in April. I expect ships are more expensive than planes to maintain when sitting around idle.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 999

I'm surprised that they only have 36 aircraft. I thought VS was much larger.


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Virgin Atlantic to retire all Boeing 747s "with immediate effect"