Virgin Airlines has been living on the edge ever since the current crisis first hit the headlines as, unlike a lot of its competitors, it found itself unable to access the aid on offer from its home government. In its fight for survival, we have seen the airline cut over 35% of its workforce and abandon one of its hub airports and we have seen multiple pleas for help from the UK government go unanswered...but the airline keeps soldiering on.
In a recent schedule update, Virgin Atlantic has reversed a decision taken back in February which saw California lose the prospect of getting a new A350 route and it has added a further A350 flight to a city already served by the airline's flagship aircraft. If the schedules don't change again (admittedly that's a very big "if"), California will be getting a lot more A350 service from Virgin Atlantic starting from this fall.
"Vieco 10" probably won't mean much to most people but it's the name of the investment company owned by Virgin Group (and therefore Richard Branson) which holds a controlling interest in Virgin Galactic. Last night, in a statement to the New York Stock Exchange, Vieco 10 confirmed that it is disposing of up to 25m shares in Virgin Galactic as Richard Branson seeks to raise funds to save a number of ailing travel enterprises.
Virgin Atlantic has just announced that it plans to "reshape and resize" its operations in a bid to survive the current crisis. With the airline struggling to raise desperately needed funds and with the British government still apparently not inclined to offer a lifeline, Virgin Atlantic says that it will be closing down its operations at Gatwick and shedding 3,150 jobs.
Virgin Atlantic's Premium Economy cabin is known for offering the widest seats you'll find outside of a First or Business Class cabin and, combined with the airline's reputation for friendly flight attendants, that's what made this cabin an appealing choice for an overnight flight that I had to take between Washinton D.C. and London at a time when Business Class fares were sky-high.
Over the weekend, reports emerged that discussions between the UK government and Virgin Atlantic had collapsed following the airline's request for a £500m ($620) government loan to help keep it afloat. The Telegraph reported that a buyer would now have to be found if the airline was to survive and that Richard Branson had set a deadline of 31 May before the airline would be put into administration.
There's an incredible amount of nonsense doing the rounds right now and the lastest involves suggestions that the British government shouldn't be offering assistance to Virgin Atlantic and that the airline should be allowed to go to the wall. As usual, these suggestions are coming from people with little or no understanding of what Virgin's demise would mean, people who don't understand how bailout could be structured and people who are incapable to see past their dislike of Sir Richard Branson. Hopefully, the UK government will ignore them all.
When an airline takes delivery of a new type of aircraft it's not always a key moment in its timeline but, in Virgin Atlantic's case, the day its first Airbus A350-1000 took to the skies with a planeload of passengers was the day that Virgin Atlantic finally brought its A-game to the transatlantic premium cabin table.
It has been quite some time since I last flew with Virgin Atlantic and while my last experience in the airline's Premium Economy cabin was very good, my feelings towards the older of the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A330 cabins were less than positive. It would be interesting to see how I felt this time around.
I have a strange love/hate relationship with Virgin Atlantic. I love Virgin's crews, its ground staff, the atmosphere onboard its aircraft and the airline's excellent Premium Economy Class product, but I hate the airline's Upper Class seat with a passion....and that's why I've been waiting for this news for months!