Virgin Atlantic is asking staff to take 8 weeks of unpaid leave due to coronavirus

As the demand for travel plummets due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Virgin Atlantic is asking its staff to take time off work, unpaid, in order to reduce the company’s losses.

In addition to this, the airline will be asking the government for financial aid and grounding the vast majority of its flights for the foreseeable future.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why have Virgin Atlantic asked staff to take time off?

A statement from the company said that these severe measures were being taken to “ensure cash is preserved, costs are controlled and the future of the airline is safeguarded.”

The cost to staff is to be spread across six months’ salary, with Virgin claiming that this is the only way they can avoid permanent job losses as a result of the drastic downturn in business.

What other measures have Virgin Atlantic taken?

The airline has also announced that it will be grounding 75 per cent of its flights by 26 March, with a further 10 per cent to be cut by April. Certain routes, like London Heathrow to Newark, have already been nixed as the company looks to focus on only its most popular trips.

The airline released a statement saying that “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.”

Peter Norris, the chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways’ majority shareholder, Virgin Group, has also written to Boris Johnson to ask for a £7.5 billion package to help out the airline industry cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

What measures are other airlines taking?

Europe’s largest regional airline, Flybe, has already been forced into administration by the sudden, seismic impact which the virus has had upon the industry, while many others are taking similar measures as Virgin in an attempt to weather the outbreak.

British Airways has announced plans to ground 75 per cent of its flights in April and May, describing itself as “fighting for survival”.

Norwegian Air has confirmed that it will also be axing 85 per cent of its flights, as well as temporarily laying off 7,300 employees.

The German-based tour company, TUI, announced on Monday (16 Mar) that it would be suspending almost all of its operations indefinitely, as well as asking the government for financial aid to prevent it from collapse.

Ryanair is planning to reduce its capacity by 80 per cent in the next 10 days, while refusing to rule out the possibility of grounding its fleet in its entirety. As of 10am on Monday 16 March, stocks in Ryanair were down by more than 18 per cent.

However, chief executive Michael O’Leary has said that he is confident that the business will survive so long as “appropriate and timely action” is taken.

Easyjet has similarly said that it may have to ground the majority of its fleet due to the virus.