After a torrid few months during which its very future looked in doubt, Virgin Atlantic has started flying again. In fact, the first flight took off from Heathrow to Hong Kong on Monday!
Flights to the USA (New York JFK and Los Angeles) took off today, with other routes set to be added throughout August, September, and October.
The re-start comes just a week after the airline was close to the brink – in danger of shutting down – before investors and Richard Branson himself came to the rescue.
The high-profile entrepreneur sold some of his stake in Virgin Galactic to invest £200 million into the company, while the rest of the money came from a US hedge fund, and deferment of payments to Delta Airlines which owns a substantial stake. The total package of £1.2 billion was quickly put together after the UK government decided against stepping in to help.
With travel restrictions on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s expected that most tickets will be bought by people for whom travel is essential. But the company is hopeful that demand will return, despite not expecting it to resume to pre-Covid levels for at least three years.
Passengers will be expected to wear face masks while onboard – provided free by the airline along with antibacterial gel – and will be encouraged not to move around the cabin too much. Sadly, Brits also won’t be able to fly from Gatwick as one of the conditions of the rescue package was that the company close their Gatwick base.
A spokesman for the airline said: “The health and wellbeing of our customers and crew is at the centre of all our operations and that includes social distancing at the airport and onboard wherever possible, meticulous cleaning of the aircraft and individual Health Packs for all customers, containing medical grade face masks, hand sanitizer and surface wipes.”
The airline is also said to be able to serve food and drink again due to the low numbers of passengers on board.
At the time of writing, the Foreign Office (FCO) advice was still against all but essential travel, meaning if you do travel to the United States your travel insurance most likely won’t cover you. In any case, the US has banned travellers from the UK, apart from students with the appropriate visa and others who are travelling to work in America’s national interest.
However, we would recommend getting in touch directly with your travel insurance provider if you have any concerns or questions regarding this matter.