Tuesday, May 18, 2021

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COVID-19: Virgin Atlantic boss expecting increased demand for air travel in coming months

Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive is forecasting an increase in demand for air travel over the coming months as restrictions ease.

The airline is among many to have struggled through the coronavirus pandemic, having cut close to half of its workforce.

It also completed a £1.2bn rescue in September, saying at the time that the "devastating impact of COVID-19 on global aviation" had forced it to "take further steps to ensure survival".

Speaking to Sky’s Ian King Live programme, however, Shai Weiss said: "Virgin Atlantic was one of the deepest impacted initially and we took dramatic measures, with tremendous sacrifices for the livelihoods of so many of our excellent people who had done nothing wrong but have lost their jobs.

"But because we completed the privately-funded recapitalisation on 4 September 2020 and, after that, two further rounds of equity, I believe we’re getting closer to the resumption of travel at scale.

"Actually everything we’ve done throughout this pandemic has been about saving Virgin Atlantic and saving as many jobs as possible."

When asked if that meant there would be no more job losses, he replied: "I think so."

He added: "My goal, our goal, is to welcome many of our employees back into Virgin Atlantic as demand returns."

Virgin Atlantic will open its stores in England on Monday, as non-essential retail is allowed to reopen under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

"I think we may see a pick-up in bookings in anticipation of the summer months that are coming," Mr Weiss said.

His words come as the government announces its plans for the resumption of international travel, expected to happen on 17 May.

He joined other airline executives in expressing some disappointment, saying that the government had "not gone far enough or should go further in defining a clear path for testing and quarantine" for countries deemed to pose a lower threat.

Some concern has been raised over the expense of the tests required – up to £120 per person – with easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren saying this would mean flying this year would be "just something for the wealthy".

When asked if Virgin Atlantic would subsidise testing costs for its passengers, Mr Weiss said: "I think we’ve done enough in providing some very attractive pricing and I’d urge people to book right now.

"There has never been a better time to travel with flexibility – not just at Virgin Atlantic but the industry as a whole."

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