Virgin Atlantic is has called for “unwavering” support in the form of government loans for the aviation sector amid the coronavirus crisis.
Last night the US confirmed it was extending its travel ban to include flights from the UK and Ireland from Tuesday.
Chief executive Shai Weiss told The Sunday Times the scale of the coronavirus outbreak was “unprecedented”, before calling on the government to give “decisive, clear and unwavering” support.
“This is not [just] about Virgin Atlantic; it is about making it available for industry,” Weiss said. “This is a systemic problem which differentiates no one. You cannot imagine the UK without the thriving airline industry, which tourism and trade depend on.
“We are talking about profitable, viable businesses, but they cannot be healthy, viable businesses if there’s zero traffic,” said Weiss. “I’m not asking for a handout — we will pay it back.”
He also called for credit card companies to “maintain normal operations”, warning that if they withheld money it would create a cash squeeze.
The Sunday Times reports that this week Virgin will cut routes.
The US has pledged a $50 billion relief fund, which its airlines are said to be utilising, while France and Germany are expected to prop up their carriers.
The Sunday Times’ sources said Whitehall may demand security over airlines’ runway slots and aircraft in return for support, amid concern about state aid.
Weiss said Virgin had assets it could post as collateral.
The government last night said it was “engaging with the sector’s leadership to support workers, businesses and passengers”.