The Virgin Atlantic boss said there was “no reason to delay” the return of US-UK travel next month – with the carrier reporting an annual loss of £ 858million sterling.
Virgin, which cut thousands of jobs with stranded flights during the pandemic – and last fall completed a bailout agreement with investors – said the number of passengers last year fell by more than 80% to 1.1 million.
As part of the government’s roadmap for reopening, non-essential travel is expected to resume on May 17 under a “traffic light” but he has yet to announce which countries will be on the “green list” subject to at least the restrictions.
Virgin boss Shai Weiss argued that the United States should be on the list – which will allow passengers to return from selected countries without having to self-isolate, although they will have to pay for COVID tests.
Mr Weiss said: “With leading vaccination programs in the UK and US, and evidence to support a safe reopening through testing, there is a clear opportunity to open up travel and no reason to delay beyond May 17. “
The comments, reiterating a position previously made by Mr Weiss, come after easyJet boss Johan Lundgren said earlier this month that European holiday destinations such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal should also be on the list.
Travel industry operators have also requested to be informed of the list as soon as possible as the reopening date approaches.
This week, Jet2 said the uncertainty caused travelers to leave their reservations until the last minute.
Transatlantic routes typically account for around four-fifths of Virgin Atlantic’s revenue – which is 51% owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and 49% by US Delta airlines.
Mr Weiss said Virgin welcomed the government’s framework for reopening travel, but it was not going far enough, with hundreds of thousands of industry jobs at stake.
“Now we need the certainty that the framework will allow for a phasing out of testing and quarantine,” he said.
Virgin said revenue fell 70% to £ 868million last year, with rising freight volumes being the only financial boost.
He also said he was “making a significant contribution to the national effort to protect lives, transporting PPE and vital medical supplies, volunteering to support frontline NHS services”.
The carrier said it processed more than £ 600million in refunds to customers during the year due to the disruption.
Virgin’s loss for the year of £ 858million compares to a loss of £ 63.7million in 2019.
The annual report showed that the number of employees at the company grew from 10,016 to 5,907 during the year, while the company received £ 70million from the government paid leave scheme. workers temporarily laid off due to the pandemic.