Like all airlines, Virgin Atlantic is suffering because of the Coronavirus crisis. The airline approached the UK Government for a loan, but were told to look to existing shareholders first.
Virgin Atlantic is owned by the Virgin Group (51%) and Delta Air Lines (49%). Delta is receiving a bailout from the US Treasury. That makes it almost impossible for them to contribute funds to Virgin Atlantic – they’d be using money, intended for their survival, to shore up another business.
The focus has fallen on Sir Richard Branson, once the darling of the public and media, but now vilified as a billionaire tax exile, living on his own private island. Things became so bad that Sir Richard wrote an open letter to employees of the Virgin Group https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/open-letter-virgin-employees
I flew with Richard Branson on the Virgin inaugural flight to Las Vegas twenty years ago. The entire weekend was one huge party and Richard was the fun, larger-than-life character that you would expect. Over the last few years, I have found him to be a little ‘preachy’ – but I think he really tries to be a good guy.
Whatever you currently feel about Sir Richard Branson, don’t forget that Virgin Atlantic employs 8,500 staff in the UK, with many more UK businesses relying on the airline. Virgin Atlantic also keep British Airways on their toes – without Virgin, we wouldn’t have seat-back TVs in Economy, nor a product called Premium Economy.
I believe the UK Government should intervene – perhaps nationalise the airline paying only pennies on the Dollar to the existing shareholders. It’s likely that this is a naive view and there are reasons why this can’t happen – but the one thing I am sure about is that I want Virgin Atlantic to continue flying.
Here aviation consultant, John Strickland discusses the situation at Virgin, with Tom Otley, editor of Business Traveller magazine.
During this week, I’ll be publishing more stories about Virgin Atlantic and also include some old video from the Las Vegas inaugural. Here’s a taste of what’s to come – with apologies for the poor quality; video was taken on a Sony tape camcorder and transferred to digital years ago.
When we landed in Las Vegas, everyone spilled out of the aircraft onto a windy tarmac. Richard had changed into an Elvis costume about 30 minutes before we’d landed and then posed with cabin crew on the aircraft steps.
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