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July 2, 2009    

Jobs at risk as Virgin Atlantic cuts back services

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by Kay Murchie

Virgin Atlantic is set to reduce its number of flights this winter which will put 600 jobs at risk.

The airline, founded by Sir Richard Branson, announced that it was not operating its Heathrow-Chicago daily service for the winter 2009/10 season and is suspending one of its two daily services between Heathrow and Hong Kong.

The airline said it will look at “minimising the number of compulsory redundancies“.

The news comes as major rival British Airways (BA) said it was “fighting for survival” and has been in in talks with staff about voluntary pay cuts and working for nothing in a bid to cut costs.

Many airlines continue to experience a slump in demand with many forced out of business last year as the economic downturn means fewer people are travelling by air.

In particular, as companies cut back, the lucrative business and first class services have suffered affecting airline’s profits.

Returning to Virgin, chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “The outlook for the industry is as bleak as ever and all airlines are having to shrink their businesses.”

BA recently reported a pre-tax loss of £401 million for the 12 months to the end of March, compared with profits of £922 million the previous year. The loss represented the biggest since the company was privatised in 1987.

In comparison, at the end of May, Virgin reported that it had almost doubled profits. In the 12 months to the end of February, pre-tax profits rose to £68.4 million, compared with the £34.8 million reported a year earlier.

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