United Kingdom

Virgin Atlantic will restart passenger flights on July 20

Virgin Atlantic has today announced it plans to restart passenger flights on July 20.

The airline will initially operate London Heathrow flights to Orlando, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York and Los Angeles.

Flights will resume to more destinations in August, with details to be confirmed in the next two weeks.

The embattled carrier, which is fighting for survival and last month announced 3,150 job cuts, has only operated cargo flights in recent weeks due to the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Billionaire founder Sir Richard Branson last month sparked fury after seeking taxpayer support in a £500m Government bailout to save his struggling airline. 

The airline will initially operate London Heathrow flights to Orlando, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York and Los Angeles

He subsequently announced he would sell a £405m stake in his space exploration business to prop up the rest of his ailing empire.

Branson plans to sell 25m shares or 12pc of New York-listed Virgin Galactic.

His company Virgin Group said it would use the proceeds ‘to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of Covid-19’. 

It has already cut 3,000 jobs and announced it will end its presence at Gatwick Airport, while its sister airline Virgin Australia has gone bust.

Branson had even offered to put his luxury Caribbean retreat Necker Island up as security against the loan.

Enhanced hygiene and safety measures announced by the airline include deploying powerful disinfectant on board 'ensuring no surface is left untouched'.

Passengers will be required to wear masks when social distancing is not possible. 

Virgin said in a statement today: 'As countries around the world start to relax travel restrictions, Virgin Atlantic will resume some routes on July 20, while steadily increasing passenger flying throughout the second half of 2020, with a further, gradual recovery through 2021 in line with customer demand.'

Billionaire founder Sir Richard Branson last month sparked fury after seeking taxpayer support in a £500m Government bailout to save his struggling airline

Chief operating officer Juha Jarvinen said the carrier is 'monitoring external conditions extremely closely' such as the UK's incoming 14-day quarantine policy.

'We know that as the Covid-19 crisis subsides, air travel will be a vital enabler of the UK's economic recovery,' he said.

'Therefore we are calling for a multi-layered approach of carefully targeted public health and screening measures, which will allow for a successful and safe restart of international air travel for passengers and businesses.' 

The businessman had warned the carrier would collapse unless it received Government support and indicated he would be willing to remortgage his private Caribbean island home on Necker Island to raise funds.

Rival airline British Airways plans to launch 'a meaningful return to service' in July.

EasyJet will resume mainly domestic flights on June 15, with half its total routes reopened by the end of July.

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