Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Afpwong.

LONDON – Virgin Atlantic (VS) has announced its plan to return to passenger flying from London Heathrow (LHR) on a limited selection of routes from July 20.

Following the relaxation of COVID-19 travel restrictions, VS announced how it will steadily increasing passenger flying through the second half of 2020, with an aim for a further gradual recovery through 2021 in line with the expected rise in customer demand.

Juha Jarvinen, VS’ Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), said that following the stabilization of the Coronavirus pandemic and the slow increase of demand, the airline is looking forward to welcoming its customers on board to fly them to their favorite destinations.

However, to ensure customer and staff safety, the airline will be introducing new measures to offer peace of mind.

The CCO also added that they will be monitoring the external conditions related to their first flight “extremely closely” with particular attention to the travel restrictions many countries still have in Place.

Mr. Javinen commented that “air travel will be a vital enabler of the UK’s economic recovery”. Therefore, the airline is calling for a multi-layered approach to carefully targeted public health and screening measures.

It was also added that the airline is planning to announce more destination restart dates in the next two weeks for the month of August.

A Gradual Return

Although a return to “normal” is on the cards for Virgin Atlantic, all flights, for now, will operate out of Heathrow’s Terminal 2 instead of their usual home at Terminal 3.

Restart DateRoute
20 July London Heathrow-Orlando
20 JulyLondon Heathrow-Hong Kong
21 JulyLondon Heathrow-Shanghai
21 JulyLondon Heathrow-New York JFK
21 JulyLondon Heathrow-Los Angeles
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-223 G-VMIK departing Manchester. (Thomas Saunders)

Health and Wellbeing

To ensure the safety and wellbeing of both staff and customers, Virgin Atlantic has announced the implementation of additional measures to offer peace of mind in the airport and onboard.

These include the enhanced and thorough cleaning of check in desks, boarding gates and onboard the aircraft, the following of safe distancing wherever possible and where this is not possible, masks will be required to be worn.

The airline has said that it will provide a personal Health Pack for the wellbeing and comfort of customers. This will contain medical-grade face masks as a requirement to be worn on board, surface wipes, and hand gel.

Also, in the short term, VS will be offering simplified hot foodservice onboard in an attempt to minimize contact.

Corneel Koster, the Chief Customer Officer commented that the airline had been working tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of both staff and customers. The carrier’s medical experts are working closely with all relevant health authorities to ensure all guidelines are met.

Mr. Koster added that they are carrying out health questionnaires before check-in and are calling upon airports to put in place temperature checks as part of a multi-layered health screening.

It was also added that while the airline is continuously reviewing its measures, “wearing a mask for the duration of the flight will initially be required.”

Mr. Koster was also keen to reassure that “Our customers are in safe hands” and that the airline was really looking forward to welcoming them back on board from July 20 onwards.

More information on Virgin Atlantic’s cleaning policy can be found here.

Transporting Cargo

In addition to the restart of its passenger services, Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate cargo-only flights, keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential supplies around the world.

Throughout June, the airline plans to operate more than 600 cargo-only services to destinations including Tel Aviv, Chicago, Brussels, Johannesburg, Lagos and Miami.

The airline will also continue to partner with the UK’s Department for Health and the NHS to bring vital medical supplies from Shanghai and Beijing throughout June and July.

To date, the airline has carried over 44 million items of PPE from China to the UK.