Coronavirus: Virgin Atlantic asks staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave – Sky News

Virgin Atlantic staff will be asked to take eight weeks of unpaid leave over the next three months, to help the airline cope during the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline is one of many to have brought in drastic measures to cope with a fall in passenger demand, due to global travel restrictions and the reluctance to travel due to the disease.

Bosses said the cost would be spread over six months' salary to "drastically reduce costs without job losses".

Also on Monday:

Shares in IAG closed 27% down while easyJet's stock lost almost 20%.

Shares in TUI fell by more than 30% at one stage but recovered to be almost 12.7% lower while Ryanair also shed 12.7%.

The falls chimed with a series of warnings relating to the aviation and tourism sectors.

One consultancy claimed most of the world's airlines could be bankrupt by the end of May without help from the government and industry.

The CAPA Centre for Aviation, an airline analysis and consulting firm based in Australia, spoke up as airlines worldwide cut schedules and staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Demand is drying up in ways that are completely unprecedented," CAPA said in a report. "Normality is not yet on the horizon."

The UK's travel association, Abta, issued a similar appeal for government help and urged acceptance of its recommendation that refund credits should be accepted as an alternative to cash refunds where trips had to be cancelled.

Many countries have closed borders to arrivals or have announced compulsory self-isolation, leading to a sharp fall in demand for air travel.

The US has banned all flights from Europe, including the UK, while countries including Israel, Australia and New Zealand have said all arrivals will have to spend 14 days in isolation on arrival.

On Sunday, Sky News reported that Britain's airline industry needs emergency government support worth up to 7.5bn to avert a catastrophe that would wipe out tens of thousands of jobs.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News he will meet transport sector chiefs this week.

He said: "We understand this is a crisis like we haven't seen before, where businesses which are otherwise sustainable, otherwise good businesses, of course should be able to survive through this situation.

"That's what we're going to try and put in place for all businesses and individuals in this country, as we join this great national effort to defeat this virus."

When asked if the government was minded to bail out airlines, he was non-committal but said "discussions with the sector are ongoing".

In other coronavirus-related aviation news:

The World Travel and Tourism Council last week warned that up to 50 million jobs globally were at risk in the sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nigel Frith, a senior market analyst at AskTraders, said the virus outbreak had caused the "biggest crisis to hit the industry, worse than 9/11".

He added: "This is no longer just the smaller players like Flybe who are being affected. Industry big shots such as British Airways is even warning over its survival. It wouldn't be surprising if governments are forced to step in to prop up some airlines.

"The big questions here are how quickly will the virus pandemic last? how quickly will countries re-open borders? And how willing to travel will the public be? The answers to these questions are unknown but will ultimately decide the fate of the airline industry."

As of 9am on Monday, 1,543 people had tested positive for coronavirus - and figures from Sunday show 35 people in the UK have died since being diagnosed.

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Coronavirus: Virgin Atlantic asks staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave - Sky News

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