Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow) will transfer all flights from London Gatwick to London Heathrow and retire all seven of its B747-400s as part of post-COVID restructuring strategy.

The airline said in a statement that it would consolidate its London hub operations around Heathrow but would not abandon its Gatwick slot portfolio in the hopes of returning there once demand permits it. It will also maintain its Manchester Int'l gateway operations.

According to the latest slot coordination report, Virgin Atlantic holds 34 slot pairs for the Summer 2020 season at Gatwick. Its market share at the airport by capacity during the second half of August 2020, according to the ch-aviation capacities module, would have been 1.7%. The airline operated a leisure-oriented, predominantly Caribbean network from Gatwick with scheduled flights to Antigua, Bridgetown, Grenada, Havana Int'l, Montego Bay, New York JFK, Orlando Int'l, St. Lucia Hewanorra, and Tobago.

In terms of fleet operations, Virgin said it would operate only wide-body, twin-engine aircraft from London Heathrow and Manchester to the most popular destinations.

As such, in addition to the early retirement of its A340-600 fleet, Virgin has now phased out its seven remaining B747-400s. Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows the quadjets concluded scheduled operations at the end of March. The aircraft are nearly 20 years old on average. Five are leased from GECAS while the remaining two are owned by Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic will also retire all four A330-200s (including two units operated through subsidiary Virgin Atlantic International) as planned in 2022. The airline also operates ten A330-300s, five A350-1000s, and seventeen B787-9s. It has three more A350-1000s and eight A330-900s on firm order from Airbus.

In tandem with its planned network and fleet cuts, Virgin Atlantic also announced a plan to reduce its headcount by 3,150 staff. A 45-day negotiation period with labour unions BALPA and Unite will soon start ahead of retrenchments.

“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," Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic commented.

“However, to safeguard our future and emerge a sustainably profitable business, now is the time for further action to reduce our costs, preserve cash and to protect as many jobs as possible. It is crucial that we return to profitability in 2021. This will mean taking steps to reshape and resize Virgin Atlantic in line with demand, while always keeping our people and customers at the heart of all we do."