Virgin Atlantic to slash a third of its staff as it weathers the coronavirus storm

Virgin Atlantic is axeing more than 3,000 jobs as it tries to survive the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

The shock announcement comes after British Airways said it could not rule out closing its Gatwick operation.

The airline currently employs a total of about 10,000 people and with the cut it means a third of its workforce will be jobless.

Virgin Atlantic, which is in the process of applying for emergency loans from the government, said that jobs will be lost across the board. "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," said Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss.

Virgin is also moving its flying programme from London Gatwick to Heathrow, and says it no longer plans to use all its 747-400S jets but said it hopes to return to Gatwick when demand picks up again.

The airline has flown from the airport since 1984, and Gatwick said: "Virgin Atlantic will always be welcome at Gatwick and we will continue our efforts to explore ways to restart the airline's operations as soon as possible, in the knowledge that they intend to retain their slot portfolio at Gatwick for when demand returns."

Weiss said that in order to safeguard the airline's future and emerge a sustainably profitable business, now is the time for further action to reduce costs, preserve cash and to protect as many jobs as possible.

"It is crucial that we return to profitability in 2021. This will mean taking steps to reshape and resize Virgin Atlantic in line with demand, while always keeping our people and customers at the heart of all we do."

Last week, British Airways said it was cutting 12,000 jobs from its 42,000-strong workforce. It also told staff that its Gatwick airport operation might not reopen after the pandemic passes. Ryanair has also announced that it is cutting 3,000 jobs (15%) of its workforce - with boss Michael O'Leary saying the move is the minimum that the company needs to survive the next 12 months. Virgin Atlantic said it had begun a 45-day consultation period on the job losses with unions Balpa and Unite and plans to reduce the size of its fleet of aircraft from 45 to 35 by the summer of 2022.