Virgin Atlantic delays São Paulo launch, CEO takes pay cut amid coronavirus outbreak

Mar 4, 2020

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Virgin Atlantic is preparing itself for the effects of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The U.K.-based carrier said that it’s implementing measures to minimise the impact of coronavirus.

“As with airlines around the world, Virgin Atlantic is feeling the impact of Covid-19 and seeing a fall in customer demand for travel”, the airline said in a statement. “We are taking appropriate measures and focusing efforts on ensuring that the airline is in a robust position to weather the storm, minimising the impact of the virus on Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays”.

Related: Complete guide to travelling during the deadly coronavirus outbreak

As announced on Wednesday, Virgin’s highest-level executives will be taking a pay cut in the short-term. The airline’s CEO Shai Weiss will take a 20% pay cut for the four months between April and July, while the rest of the executive leadership team has agreed to a pay cut of 15% for the period.

Also notably, Virgin has delayed the launch of one of its new routes. It was due to launch its London Heathrow to Sao Paulo route on 29 March, however, it has deferred the launch until the winter season. More specifically, the new route will take off on 5 October 2020.

With regard to staff travel, Virgin has put a restriction on all non-essential staff travel and training. For those not yet hired, Virgin is implementing a company-wide recruitment freeze.

Virgin has proposed a deferral of annual pay increases from March until August 2020. During that time, it expects it’ll be able to reassess the impact of coronavirus on its business. In addition, it’s offering its ground-based staff the option of unpaid leave of between one to two weeks, which must be taken before 31 July.

Related: Coronavirus: Is my airline waiving change fees or cancelling flights?

Earlier on Wednesday, Virgin announced that it had introduced a flexible rebooking policy for travellers who make new bookings. For all flights within Virgin Atlantic’s international network, as well as Virgin Atlantic codeshare flights, tickets issued between 4 March and 31 March 2020 can be changed for travel until 30 September 2020. No refunds are permitted as part of the policy. Unfortunately, it only applies to new bookings.

The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Virgin Atlantic saw a 40% drop in customer demand for the month of March compared to the same period in the year prior.

The airline had previously suspended its route from London Heathrow to Shanghai until 19 April, as well as reducing service to Hong Kong.

Featured photo by Patrick Fallon/The Points Guy.

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