Virgin Atlantic has announced it is to cut more than 3,000 jobs in the UK and close its Gatwick operation. It said the jobs will lost across its network.
The move comes after British Airways had also said it may close its Gatwick base.
Virgin Atlantic is currently in the process of applying for emergency government loans to see it through the Covid-19 crisis.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Shai Weiss, said: “We have weathered many storms since our first flight 36 years ago, but none has been as devastating as Covid-19 and the associated loss of life and livelihood for so many.”
The British Airline Pilots Association union, (Balpa), described the announcement as “another terrible blow for the industry and is evidence of the dire situation facing UK aviation.
Balpa general secretary, Brian Strutton, said: The news of over 3000 proposed job losses at Virgin Atlantic is devastating for those who work for the airline and BALPA is doing all it can to support members affected. There are 426 pilots at risk.
“Without immediate action by the government we will see the once world leading industry decimated and that will have an effect throughout the UK economy and to all the other industries that rely on aviation. Virgin for example applied for Government support weeks ago and Treasury is still prevaricating.
“It won’t just be airline staff who are hit by this lack of support… it will reverberate right through to the whole UK.
“Our members and all staff in Virgin Atlantic will be shocked by the scale of this bombshell. We will be challenging Virgin very hard to justify this.”
Virgin Atlantic also announced that it will be moving its Gatwick services to Heathrow, but it intends to keep its slots at Gatwick so that it can return in line with customer demand.
Looking back at previous crises, Mr Weiss said: “After 9/11 and the global financial crisis, we took similar painful measures but fortunately many members of our team were back flying with us within a couple of years.
“Depending on how long the pandemic lasts and the period of time our planes are grounded for, hopefully the same will happen this time.”
The airline said it has entered a 45-day consultation period about the job losses with the Balpa and Unite unions.