Virgin Atlantic continued to make a loss in 2018 as the company faced a “challenging economic backdrop” in the UK.
The company, which also owns Virgin Holidays, made a pre-tax loss of £26.1 million, excluding tax and exceptional items in 2018. This was an improvement on the £49 million loss Virgin Atlantic made in 2017.
More positively, Virgin Atlantic increased revenue by £153 million or 5.8% to £2.8 billion during the year, with passenger numbers also rising by 4.8% to reach 5.4 million.
The airline emphasised a 1.7% year-on-year increase in its passenger unit revenue – the first time this key metric has risen since 2014.
Virgin added it was now “in a strong position to realise its plan to revive growth and return to profitability”.
Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic chief executive, said: “While a loss is disappointing, our performance has improved in 2018 despite challenging economic conditions and put us on a trajectory for growth and return to profitability.
“We continued to invest in a host of new initiatives to delight our customers, including greater choice by successfully launching three new ways to fly economy.
"Operationally, we achieved our best arrival performance since 1997.”
Weiss added it was “time to build on these foundations” with several “transformative projects” taking place at the airline in 2019.
These include taking delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft featuring new cabins, including a new Upper Class suite. Flights are also being launched to Tel Aviv and Sao Paulo.
The company, which is 49% owned by Delta, is also part of the consortium to acquire regional airline Flybe, which will eventually be rebranded as Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin Holidays made a pre-tax profit of £6 million last year but this was down on its 2017 results when it made a profit of £15.5 million due to “softer consumer demand” caused by “economic uncertainty” and the weakness of the pound against the US dollar.
Online bookings of Virgin Holidays’ Flight+Hotel packages with the airline increased by 250% year-on-year, while 22 new retail concessions were opened in Next stores.