Branson delivers rescue package to Virgin Group

Virgin Atlantic staff to work voluntarily for 8 weeks due to COVID-19 pandemic

Employees of Virgin Atlantic and the company’s sister wholesale vacation specialist Virgin Holidays have put up their hands en-mass to work on a voluntary basis as the businesses work on initiatives to preserve cash and protect jobs during the coronvirus pandemic.

The British airline’s staff will work for free for eight weeks over the next six and a half months to limit financial hardships and assist with ensuring Virgin Atlantic’s future survival.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said the actions would play a part in the longer-term survival of the airline.

“Their response to this unprecedented ask, in just 74 hours, has utterly blown me away,” Weiss said. “Virtually everyone in Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays has decided to voluntarily sign to tough measures in support of our future. Along with the rest of my Leadership Team, I’ve been humbled by the way every area of our business has rallied behind the cause when we most needed them.”

Weiss also applauded the Virgin Group and partner airline Delta Air Lines for their “unwavering support” during this unstable period.

Close to 100% of Virgin Atlantic’s ground-based teams globally opted for three measures due to the COVID-19 travel crisis: unpaid leave, sabbatical and voluntary severances.

“I know these decisions have been hard. I’ve had emotional conversations with many of our people. As we weather this crisis, we’re all in it together – and this is a humbling outcome to achieve as one team,” the Chief Executive wrote.

“Our mission remains intact: to ensure Virgin Atlantic overcomes this crisis, protecting as many jobs as possible, so we can emerge and thrive once the situation stabilises and normal operations resume.

Sir Richard pumps $250 million into Virgin Group

Weiss’ comments come as Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson unveiled plans to inject a US$250 million rescue package for his 70,000 employees across multiple brands and in 35 countries.

In a blog post, Branson – who is the majority owner of Virgin Atlantic – described the current period as the “most significant crisis the world has experienced in my lifetime”.

“Our airlines have had to ground almost all their planes; our cruise line has had to postpone its launch; our health clubs and hotels have had to close their doors and all bookings to our holiday company have stopped,” he said.

Reflecting, Branson said he recalled “the days and weeks after 9/11” when it was necessary for airlines and travel companies to make “extremely painful decisions” to keep businesses afloat. “We are doing all we can to stop that happening now,” he said.

The billionaire alluded that his US$250 million package may be the first installment required, saying: “We are supporting our people and our businesses in their fight for survival in numerous ways. We are providing a quarter of billion dollars over the next weeks and months to protect them and save jobs – that is likely just the start.”

Sir Richard Branson donning his Virgin Galactic Under Armour spacewear system

To view Virgin Atlantic’s current COVID-19 travel advice, click here.

Lead image: Sir Richard Branson with his Virgin by Design book

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