**UPDATE: 03/30/20 @16:10 UTC – Added comments from Virgin Atlantic**
Virgin Atlantic has confirmed that, for the month of April, it will only be operating three routes. The CEO of Virgin Atlantic confirmed it would be grounding at least 85% of its fleet for the month in an attempt to minimize costs. As its commercial operations are cut, the airline has taken to operating cargo flights instead and is placing its fleet into storage.
The three routes
For the month of April, Virgin Atlantic will be operating just three routes. These are between London Heathrow and Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong. The London-New York route will be operated daily by an Airbus A350. This excludes on the 1st of April when there will be no service.
The route to LA from London will also operate daily. The airline was due to introduce a new A350 on this route later this month, but this has been brought forward. The new aircraft will now replace a Boeing 789 from the 1st of April.
The route to Hong Kong will only operate every other day. A Boeing 787-9 will fly this route on alternating days.
Due to the extreme number of cuts, staff are being told to take eight weeks of unpaid leave over the coming three months. It’s a drastic measure, but one that the airline hopes will mean no permanent job losses. The airline also confirmed it would spread the cost of the unpaid leave over six months so as not to leave staff without money in the short-term.
Virgin Atlantic isn’t the only airline to have slashed its operating flights this coming month. As governing bodies are relaxing rules of using slots during this unprecedented time, airlines are now able to cut flights and ground their fleets rather than operating ghost flights.
United Airlines has said it will also be cutting over half its current routes over April and May. The airline has also asked the US government for a bailout package to the tune of $50 billion. In a letter to employees, CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby told employees that the cuts would likely extend into the summer months without help from the government.
Delta Air Lines, which has a 49% share of Virgin Atlantic, is also cutting routes. At least 40% of its flights will be suspended. Many people believe this figure will rise over the next month. Delta staff are also being asked to take eight weeks of unpaid leave and CEO Ed Bastian will not take his base salary for the next few months.
Grounding an entire fleet
But with so many planes no longer in the skies, the ground is becoming rather congested. Airports can only store so many planes so as more airlines ground planes, they are having to put them into storage facilities.
Virgin Atlantic has managed to store the majority of its planes at Heathrow. But with space at a premium, some aircraft have been stored in smaller airports such as Doncaster. The airline was also due to retire its remaining three A340s over the coming weeks. All three planes have now been flown to Bournemouth for storage. In response to Simple Flying’s request for comment, Virgin Atlantic said:
“We always planned to retire our A340s early in 2020. The onset of Covid-19 has seen a significant reduction in our flying programme and so we decided to take this opportunity to retire the remaining three A340s from our fleet.”
Virgin Atlantic will reduce its operations to just six aircraft for all commercial and cargo flights in April. With the retirement of the three A340s and the early introduction of its new Airbus A350, Virgin Atlantic is undergoing some serious changes over the coming month.