Virgin Atlantic is upping the amount of cargo it carries on its passenger flights as it starts to resume flying as it bids to ensure services are “cash-positive”.
The airline last week secured a £1.2 billion bailout as it battled the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting travel restrictions on the aviation industry.
It resumed passenger services for the first time in three months yesterday by operating its route to Hong Kong and transatlantic flights restarted today to Los Angeles and New York.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Lee Haslett, vice president of sales, said: “It’s been a strange period for several months. You’re not flying any passengers, although during that period, we’ve flown 1,400 cargo flights and about 1,500 tons of PPA and done partnerships with the Foreign Office and the government and so forth.
“We are really focused on making sure that every flight that we do is a cash-positive flight.
“As well as passengers, the belly of the plane will be full of cargo too. When you add cargo to passenger revenue you can afford to run slightly lower load factors but, interestingly, our factor for our Hong Kong flight [was] pretty high.”
Haslett said Virgin was “closely monitoring” the United States, from where people will have to quarantine for 14 days on their return to Britain.
He said: “We are working closely with the [UK] government. The travel corridors that were announced last week were a solid step in the right direction. Obviously from a US perspective, customers still have to quarantine, but when you look at some of the load factors we’ve got at the moment, there are still a lot of passengers that want to either return home to Europe or return back to the States.
“So we will continue to fly cargo and the main focus for us is making sure that flights are cash-positive, and then we’ll follow the advice as and when it opens up.”
Haslett added: “Everyone in the trade and in the industry, and certainly those operators that are really dependent on us, are really hoping that we can, when it’s safe to, start to return to the holiday destinations like Orlando that we love. We want to get back to that, but we need to make sure that when we return, it’s safe to do so.”
He stressed that agents and customers needed to be aware that Virgin’s network has changed.
“We’ve changed some of our arrival and departure times and so forth. So we’ll be publishing those,” he explained. “We’ll be introducing a new double-daily service to Tel Aviv, for example. So do make sure people check out the change in our network.”