Virgin Atlantic revealed on a “devastating day” that it has permanently grounded its fleet of iconic Boeing 747s and will cut more than 3,000 jobs in addition to pulling out of Gatwick airport.
Richard Branson’s group is shifting operations instead to concentrate on London Heathrow and Manchester and laying off 3,150 employees in a bid to return to profitability by 2021.
Virgin Atlantic has struggled to secure a bailout from the UK government. Its announcement comes just after rival British Airways said it was looking at eliminating 12,000 positions.
Virgin Atlantic had been due to retire its 747 fleet by next year and its retirement announcement comes as little surprise as airlines turn away from costly twin-engine aircraft.
The airline took on its first 747 in 1984 and since then has operated 30 jumbo jets, more than any other aircraft in its fleet.
“This is a devastating day for us,” CEO Shai Weiss told Bloomberg. “But we must be sustainably profitable to repay the financing we need, which means resizing and reshaping the business.”
Weiss said that Virgin Atlantic will reduce its fleet from 45 to 35 planes. The carrier will retire four Airbus SE A330s in 2022.
The airline will continue to receive deliveries for eight A350-1000s and 16 A330s.