Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss has joined the chorus of criticism of the government’s lack of support for the industry.
Speaking during Abta’s Travel Convention, Weiss slammed the government’s approach.
“In retrospect, anyone of us could have done things better, quicker, more decisively. One in 10 jobs rely on travel and tourism – just to think that this industry can be left to its own devices when all the constraints have been put on by the government, I think, is shortsighted.”
Weiss said airline failures were “a severe possibility” if some sort of testing regime was not introduced. He warned: “I feel that if a decision is not forthcoming now, we will lose the Christmas business and we will lose Easter.”
Virgin had “shored up its balance sheet”, Weiss said, adding: “Virgin is here to survive.”
However, the carrier now has half its previous 10,000 employees.
“We had to focus on saving as many jobs as we could while protecting Virgin Atlantic for the future,” he said.
“When a CEO stands and says we will fight for every job and you lose one in two, that’s devastating.”
Weiss said the airline was “continuing to look at new opportunities, including the Caribbean”.
“Our heritage as a leisure brand allows us to look at other opportunities and we know the VFR market will come back far in advance of business.”
Covid testing was the only way to get air travel moving ahead of a vaccine, he said. He predicted a pregnancy test-style kit “very soon”.
“I think it’s going to be passenger-paid, at least initially.”
He claimed the chances of catching the virus on a flight were “exactly the same” as mixing among the general population.