Virgin Atlantic is reported to have denied it has set a deadline of May to find a buyer and it continues to talk to the UK government about a £500 million bailout.

According to Reuters the airline, founded by Richard Branson and part-owned by Delta, continues to explore all options to obtain additional funding.

The carrier denied reports in the Sunday Telegraph that it was seeking a buyer and that a deadline for talk had been set for the end of May.

Virgin told Reuters that talks with the government were “ongoing and constructive”.

“Because of significant costs to our business caused by unprecedented market conditions which the COVID-19 crisis has brought with it, we are exploring all available options to obtain additional external funding.”

Virgin Atlantic has come in for considerable criticism because it is offering customer refund credit notes instead of cash refunds for flights that have been cancelled.

This is in spite of EU rules stating that airlines must refund customers within seven days of a cancellation.

This inability of airlines to pay refunds is preventing agents and operators from providing refunds to their clients as stipulated by law in Package Travel Regulations.

Branson is coming under direct pressure to use his ow personal wealth to bailout Virgin Atlantic, although he has insisted any government help would be on commercial terms.

On Friday Ryanair boss Micheal O’Leary hit out at airlines like Lufthansa who he accused of being addicted to state aid and said Virgin Atlantic was trying to fleece the UK taxpayer.

O’Leary told Sky News: “Now you have Virgin Atlantic owned by Delta and a Caribbean island-based, non-resident billionaire. Frankly if he’s worried about Virgin he should write the cheque himself. It’s not like he’s short of money.”

The Sunday Telegraph claimed Lansdowne Partners, Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek and Northill Capital were interested in rescuing Virgin Atlantic.

And it said Centerbridge Partners and Cerberus Capital Management were also in discussions.

The report added a rescue deal, if agreed, could leave Branson with no stake in the airline although putting the airline into administration had not been ruled out.