More than 3,000 jobs at the Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays travel brands owned by billionaire Richard Branson are to be axed.
In total, 3,150 roles are to be lost across all departments at the companies with a 45-day consultation period now beginning with staff, reports The Sun.
Virgin is also axing 15 per cent of its Virgin Holiday stores. It couldn’t confirm how many this means in reality but given it has 58 branches it could mean the closure of eight to nine.
It follows similar moves across the travel industry with British Airways cutting 12,000 jobs and Ryanair ditching 3,000 roles.
Here in Australia, Qantas has told 20,000 employees they will be stood down until at least the end of June, while the positions of more than 15,000 Virgin Australia employees have been left in limbo as the airline entered voluntary administration last month.
Virgin Atlantic is the latest casualty of the coronavirus crisis, which has crippled the travel industry, with a third of UK staff set to lose their jobs.
But the move from Virgin follows intense criticism from the public over decisions to initially place staff on unpaid leave, before later furloughing (paying wages to staff who can’t do their jobs) more than 80 per cent of the workforce, with some calling for owner Mr Branson to sell his private Caribbean island to fund salaries.
In an open letter to staff, Mr Branson had warned the airline could fall into administration without a government bailout, adding that he was prepared to put Necker Island up as collateral to save the business.
Mr Branson was, however, again slammed for asking for taxpayer funding, and has instead reportedly been seeking private investment instead.
The Virgin Group says it’s now working with the BALPA and Unite unions on the redundancies.
As part of the measures, Virgin is also temporarily scrapping its London Gatwick routes as the airline scales back to survive the pandemic.
Flights will instead go from London Heathrow, although Virgin says it will retain its Gatwick slot so it can reopen there when demand improves.
Virgin has also used the announcement to reveal a rebrand of Virgin Holidays, which will now become Virgin Atlantic Holidays.
Coronavirus has severely impacted the travel industry around the world leaving millions of flights grounded as the governments warn people against all but essential travel and close borders.
British Airways’ boss, Alex Cruz, said he feared the impact could be “more serious than SARS and 9/11”.
The UK carrier is now battling to put remaining staff onto new “zero hour” contracts.
Meanwhile for the full year ahead, ending March 2021, Ryanair expects to carry less than 100 million passengers – more than 35 per cent below its original 154 million target.
Shai Weiss, chief executive at Virgin Atlantic said: “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.
“It is crucial that we return to profitability in 2021. This will mean taking steps to reshape and reseize Virgin Atlantic in line with demand, while always keeping our people and customers at the heart of all we do.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission