Sir Richard Branson has written an open letter to Virgin Group staff in which he warns that Virgin Atlantic will need government support in order to make it through the current coronavirus crisis.

In the letter Branson said that “We are operating in many of the hardest hit sectors, including aviation, leisure, hotels and cruises”, and warned that “The challenge right now is that there is no money coming in and lots going out”.

“Together with the team at Virgin Atlantic, we will do everything we can to keep the airline going,” Branson continued “- but we will need government support to achieve that in the face of the severe uncertainty surrounding travel today and not knowing how long the planes will be grounded for”.

“This would be in the form of a commercial loan – it wouldn’t be free money and the airline would pay it back (as Easyjet will do for the £600m loan the government recently gave them). The reality of this unprecedented crisis is that many airlines around the world need government support and many have already received it.

“Without it there won’t be any competition left and hundreds of thousands more jobs will be lost, along with critical connectivity and huge economic value.”

The open letter said that the same was true in Australia, “where the brilliant Virgin Australia team is fighting to survive and need support to get through this catastrophic global crisis”.

Reports earlier today suggest that Australia’s second largest carrier is set to go into voluntary administration.

Virgin Atlantic (which is 51 per cent owned by the Virgin Group, with US carrier Delta holding the remaining 49 per cent stake) is understood to have requested £500 million in government aid, but last week The Financial Times reported that the airline had been told to resubmit its prpoposal “after the UK government was left unimpressed with its initial bid”.

Branson’s letter can be seen in full here.