Virgin Atlantic will temporarily suspend all of its passenger operations and go cargo-only this month as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline said that it would be carrying cargo in the cabin as well as the hold after receiving “special dispensation” from the Civil Aviation Authority.
A spokesperson for the airline told The Independent: “Following the rapid acceleration of Covid-19 and extensive travel restrictions, coupled with a sharp drop in customer demand, Virgin Atlantic is continuing to review its flying programme each day and has made the decision to move most of its current scheduled services to cargo-only services from 20 April until 26 April.”
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“The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has provided Virgin Atlantic with special dispensation to carry cargo in the cabin as well as the cargo hold, so that we can carry even more essential goods, to ensure global supply chains keep running and transporting essential medical supplies into the UK at this time of crisis,” the spokesperson added.
Three long haul routes from London Heathrow will be affected: to New York JFK from 21 to 26 April, to Hong Kong from 20 to 26 April and to Los Angeles from 20 to 26 April.
Passengers currently booked onto these flights will be contacted with options to amend their bookings.
In addition, the airline has said that it will also be operating eight cargo-only flights between London Heathrow and Shanghai in partnership with the Department of Health and the NHS.
Virgin Atlantic currently plans to resume passenger services alongside its cargo operation from 27 April.
Since the coronavirus pandemic started, the airline, like many others, has seen dramatic drops in passenger numbers.
In March, Virgin Atlantic said it had been forced to cut 80 per cent of its flights.
Due to the cuts it has announced, the airline is asking staff to take eight weeks unpaid leave over the next three months, but there will be no job losses. Deductions to salaries from the unpaid leave will be spread over six months.
In addition, it will offer voluntary redundancies and sabbaticals of between six to 12 months. Pay increases will be paused until 2021, employer pension contribution will be reduced for a year and sick pay will be reduced to 12 weeks full pay.
The airline has also encouraged crew who are grounded to volunteer for the NHS.
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