Virgin Atlantic is planning to significantly downsize its operations and close its operation at London Gatwick.

It said the moves were necessary to ‘position itself for a  post-Covid19 future’.

The airline says it believes recovery to pre-crisis levels will take up to three years.

“Accordingly, the airline has taken decisive action to reduce costs, preserve cash and to protect as many jobs as possible. … to safeguard the future of the airline so it can emerge from this crisis a sustainably profitable business.”

The company has announced “a planned reduction of 3,150 jobs across all functions. Working closely with unions BALPA and Unite, a company-wide consultation period of 45 days begins today”.

As part of “Optimising its network and simplifying its fleet” it will fly only wide-body, twin-engine aircraft from London Heathrow and Manchester and move its flights from London Gatwick to London Heathrow, though it says it has “the intention of retaining its slot portfolio at London Gatwick, so it can return in line with customer demand”.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic commented: “I wish it was not the case, but we will have to reduce the number of people we employ. The commitment of our people throughout this crisis has been nothing but amazing, and the embodiment of true Virgin spirit. As we have navigated the Covid-19 crisis, I have been humbled at every step by their solidarity. In times of adversity we must support each other so that ultimately, we can emerge a stronger and better Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin is also grounding its seven B747-400s, with four A330-200 aircraft retiring in early 2022 as planned.

A Gatwick spokesperson said: “We are very saddened to hear the news today about Virgin Atlantic’s plans.  We have had a long, close and successful relationship with the airline since it made its maiden flight from Gatwick back in 1984.  Virgin Atlantic will always be welcome at Gatwick and we will continue our efforts to explore ways to restart the airline’s operations as soon as possible, in the knowledge that they intend to retain their slot portfolio at Gatwick for when demand returns. This news will be devastating for its staff and the many local businesses that supply and support the airline at the airport and its HQ in Crawley, however we will continue to work with Virgin Atlantic to get them flying again from Gatwick.”

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) said “The news of over 3000 proposed job losses at Virgin Atlantic is devastating for those who work for the airline and BALPA is doing all it can to support members affected. There are 426 pilots at risk. This is another terrible blow for the industry and is evidence of the dire situation facing UK aviation.

“Without immediate action by the Government we will see the once world leading industry decimated and that will have an effect throughout the UK economy and to all the other industries that rely on aviation. Virgin for example applied for Government support weeks ago and Treasury is still prevaricating.

“It won’t just be airline staff who are hit by this lack of support… it will reverberate right through to the whole U.K.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said: “Our members and all staff in Virgin Atlantic will be shocked by the scale of this bombshell. We will be challenging Virgin very hard to justify this.

“My letter to the Chancellor yesterday is all the more significant – why is the Government sitting on its hands while aviation plunges further towards a death spiral? Government should call a moratorium on job losses in aviation and lead a planned recovery.”