There would be no bailout from the government if British Airways went bust, the new transport secretary Lord Adonis has said.

Speaking this morning at a press conference marking the 25th anniversary of Virgin Atlantic, Lord Adonis said: “We are not in the business of giving bailouts, and nor would the public expect us to. The public interest would not be served by giving public subsidies.”

The transport secretary was responding to demands by Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson that there should be no financial rescue from the public purse if British Airways were to fail.

“All we want to be sure about is, if other airlines go bust, their slots will go back into the pot and we would be able to get our fair share,” said Sir Richard.

British Airways is attempting to save £100 million a year in what chief executive Willie Walsh has admitted is a fight for the airline’s survival. Last week it asked staff to consider working for up to four weeks for no pay, and this morning rumours were rife that it would be ditching its OpenSkies subsidiary.

Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic has announced a $2.1 billion order for 10 new Airbus A330-300 aircraft, half of which will be delivered in early 2011 and the other half in 2012.

The 270-seater aircraft will help the airline fulfil ambitions to reach destinations such as Beijing, Cancun and Vancouver. The aircraft are reportedly 10% more fuel efficient and will boast USB slots and power sockets in business and premium economy classes.