Virgin Atlantic to temporarily suspend passenger operations

Apr 8, 2020

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Virgin Atlantic will not operate any passenger flights for nearly one week at the end of April. As a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the airline detailed that between April 20-26, it will only operate cargo services.

As reported by RoutesOnline and confirmed to TPG by Virgin Atlantic, the following scheduled services will operate as cargo-only flights:

  • London Heathrow (LHR) to New York (JFK) — April 21-26
  • London Heathrow (LHR) to Hong Kong (HKG) — April 20-26
  • London Heathrow (LHR) to Los Angeles (LAX) — April 20-26

Last month, the airline detailed that it would fly just three passenger routes until April 19 — Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong. However, while those routes will continue after 19 April, they will carry just cargo, rather than passengers. It’s worth noting, however, that New York (JFK) will get an extra day of passenger service on April 20.

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(Image courtesy of gcmap.com)
(Image courtesy of gcmap.com)

“Following the rapid acceleration of Covid-19 and extensive travel restrictions, coupled with a sharp drop in customer demand, Virgin Atlantic is continuing to review its flying programme each day and has made the decision to move most of its current scheduled services to cargo-only services from 20 April until 26 April,” the airline said in a statement.

For the cargo-only flights between April 20-26, special dispensation from the Civil Aviation Authority will allow Virgin to carry cargo both in the cargo hold of its aircraft, as well as in the cabin. Scenes from inside other flights operating cargo-only flights have shown boxes strapped in to fill the seats where passengers would typically sit.

Related: Left without flyers, airlines are using passenger jets for cargo

Passengers who were booked to fly on the now cargo-only flights between April 21-26 will be contacted with information about alternative options.

At this point, it remains unclear what operations will look like after April 26.

In addition to continuing its three flights to LAX, JFK and HKG, though with cargo only, Virgin will also operate eight cargo flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and Shanghai (PVG) during April. The flights, which are in partnership with the Department of Health and the NHS, will see Virgin transporting medical supplies from China to the U.K.

Virgin Atlantic also said that it’s working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to operate repatriation flights where needed.

The massive reduction in operations for Virgin Atlantic comes as no surprise. Last month, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said that as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the airline would ground 85% of its fleet for parts of April.

Virgin’s cargo operation not only saw its first-ever flight as a result of the coronavirus, but it has proved to be an essential core of Virgin’s business. As passenger demand has sharply declined, Virgin’s cargo business has helped the carrier to continue operations.

Featured photo by Roberto Machago Noa/Getty Images.

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