Virgin Atlantic staff will be asked to take eight weeks of unpaid leave over the next three months as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on the aviation industry.
Global travel restrictions and a sharp fall in demand has seen leading airlines slash their flight schedules, with EasyJet warning that the “majority” of its planes could be grounded in the future.
British Airways’ parent company IAG also revealed that its capacity for April and May would be cut by “at least 75 per cent” compared with the same period in 2019.
Virgin Atlantic are set to reduce daily flights by 80 per cent by 26 March with the London Heathrow to Newark route to be axed immediately.
To help cope with the escalating crisis bosses will ask staff to take a pay hit to “drastically reduce costs without job losses”.
They said asking staff to take two months unpaid leave, the cost of which will be spread over six months’ salary, is the only way they can reduce outgoings without making job losses.
The move has the support of unions BALPA and UNITE, according to the statement, but it has garnered widespread criticism.
Liam Young said: “Virgin Atlantic have 8,500 employees and Branson has asked them to take 8 weeks unpaid leave.
“It would cost £4.2 million to pay all of these employees £500 a week to cover this leave. In total that’s a cost of £34 million for 8 weeks.
“Richard Branson is worth £4 billion.”
£7.5 billion in government support
It comes after the airline appealed for £7.5 billion in government support to prop up the aviation industry during the coronavirus crisis.
Peter Norris, the chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways’ majority shareholder, Virgin Group, wrote to the prime minister today to warn that the sector needs immediate financial aid to survive.