Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to cut more than 3,000 jobs and end its operation at Gatwick.
The airline said it will reduce its workforce by 3,150 people – equivalent to more than a 30% cut.
Virgin Atlantic’s flights from Gatwick – grounded due to the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic – will not restart. Some routes will be switched to Heathrow.
Chief executive Shai Weiss said the carrier must take steps to “reduce our costs, preserve cash and to protect as many jobs as possible”.
He added: “I wish it was not the case, but we will have to reduce the number of people we employ.”
The airline said talks with the Government about additional funding during the lockdown “are ongoing”.
Founder Sir Richard Branson recently warned the carrier will collapse unless it receives Government support.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with the sector and are willing to consider the situation of individual firms once all other Government schemes and commercial options have been explored, including raising capital from existing investors.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Virgin Atlantic operated flights from Gatwick to destinations such as Orlando, USA; Havana, Cuba; and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Rival airline British Airways announced last week that it was planning to cut 12,000 jobs, and it also emerged it is considering closing its Gatwick base.
Carriers around the world have grounded the majority of their planes due to the lack of demand for air travel caused by the pandemic.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: “Our members and all staff in Virgin Atlantic will be shocked by the scale of this bombshell. We will be challenging Virgin very hard to justify this.
“Why is the Government sitting on its hands while aviation plunges further towards a death spiral?”
Unite, which represents Virgin Atlantic cabin crew and check-in staff, described the announcement of job cuts as “premature”, due to the Government’s furlough scheme.
Assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “We have grave concerns about the impact on Gatwick airport and the local economy following this latest blow.”
A Gatwick spokesman said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the aviation sector but we remain confident that the industry will recover as air travel demand returns.
“We remain very optimistic about the long-term prospects of Gatwick airport and our resilience as a business, and having remained open throughout this pandemic we are in a strong position to extend our current operations quickly to meet demand.”
Virgin Atlantic also announced it will not return to using its seven Boeing 747-400 aircraft, which have four engines.
By 2022 it will operate a “simplified, greener fleet” of 36 twin-engine aircraft, which are more fuel efficient.
Meanwhile 15% of the retail estate used by Virgin Holidays will close this year, and the travel firm will be renamed Virgin Atlantic Holidays.