Virgin Atlantic is the latest airline to announce huge capacity cuts for the coming months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier said it would “put drastic measures in place to ensure cash is preserved, costs are controlled, and the future of the airline is safeguarded”.

Its schedule will see an 80 percent reduction in flights per day from March 26, with 75 per cent of its fleet grounded by March 26, rising to 85 per cent at points in April.

It said it would focus on “core routes” depending on customer demand and subject to constant review.

It did not name specific routes, but announced that London Heathrow-Newark will be permanently terminated with immediate effect.

Newark was the first destination launched by Virgin in 1984, and its only one for several years.

Today it has 41 aircraft in its fleet.

Those with flights booked should check the latest information directly with Virgin Atlantic, though it has asked that customers do not contact its customer service agents unless they are due to fly within the next 72 hours.

Last week the airline announced the following change fee waiver policy:

  • For bookings made before 12 March, for travel between 1 March and 31 May 2020, travel can be rebooked between 13 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.
  • For bookings made between 4 March and 31 March, travel can be rebooked between 4 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.

Anyone booked on a cancelled flight is entitled to a full refund.

Virgin’s joint venture partners Air France-KLM and Delta have also announced unprecedented capacity cuts for the coming months.

The transatlantic joint venture partners have been particularly impact by a US travel ban on arrivals from 28 European countries, including the UK and Ireland.

Coronavirus: US travel ban to extend to UK and Ireland from Monday

The coronavirus pandemic is pushing airlines around the world into crisis.

Today the world’s three largest airline alliances called on governments and stakeholders to take action “to alleviate the unprecedented challenges faced by the global airline industry”.

Oneworld, Skyteam and Star Alliance issued a joint statement in which they said they are “strongly supporting a request by the International Air Transport Association for regulators to suspend slot usage rules for the northern summer 2020 season as the airline industry suffers from extraordinary reductions in passenger demand”.

The three alliances represent almost 60 carriers worldwide, with member carriers accounting for over 60 per cent of scheduled global airline traffic.

Virgin Atlantic is not a member of an alliance.

Yesterday its CEO Shai Weiss and founder Richard Branson said they would ask the UK government for £7.5 billion support package.

All the airline’s employees will be offered a one-time voluntary severance package and offered a 6-12 month sabbatical.

In 2019, Virgin led a consortium in the takeover of regional airline Flybe, which was put into administration at the start of the month.

The International Air Transport Association has predicted coronavirus could cost the aviation industry at least $110 billion.

British Airways’ owner IAG says capacity across the group will be cut by 75 per cent in the coming months, while Easyjet and Ryanair have said they could ground their entire fleets.

US airlines are in talks with the government over a support package, Reuters reports.

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