Virgin Atlantic might be struggling financially to maintain the airline as we know it, but in the meantime, Sir Richard Branson’s carrier will continue to help its home country.
Virgin Atlantic is set to deliver more than 43 million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies to the United Kingdom from China as it continues to plead for a bailout.
The airline asked for a loan of 500 million pounds ($615 million USD) from the British government but was rejected and told to explore other avenues to obtain the financing it needs. In an open letter to employees, Branson said: “We will need government support to achieve (financial solvency) in the face of severe uncertainty surrounding travel today.”
Airplane manufacturer Airbus, engine-maker Rolls Royce, London Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport have all advocated on Virgin Atlantic’s behalf to the government.
In the meantime, the airline is prepping for onboard special cargo-only flights which have been chartered by the Department of Health and Social Care and Britain’s National Health Service from May through July. Virgin Atlantic resumed flights to China on April 3 and since then has operated nine 26-hour round trips between London Heathrow and Shanghai. The flights use both the cargo hold as well as passenger seats and overhead lockers to carry on average 1,400 boxes of essential equipment.
The flights are manned by seven pilots and four cabin crew who rotate duties and rest time. Each flight contains on average 16 tons of essential items needed to help fight the pandemic.
“We are so incredibly grateful for all the work our healthcare professionals are doing during this challenging time and we’re pleased we can play our part by bringing crucial medical supplies and PPE into the UK for the NHS teams working on the front line,” Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said in a statement.
Kennedy continued, “Despite a decrease in passengers travelling, demand to transport cargo remains strong, and our teams are working hard keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential supplies around the world. We’re looking forward to continuing to partner with the Department for Health and the NHS, working with them on daily flights from Shanghai to London throughout May, June and July transporting over 1,500 tons of supplies that the teams here in the UK urgently need to care for patients.”
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