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Union backs Virgin Atlantic bosses plea for £7.5bn UK airline coronavirus bailout

Tom McArthur
Page editor
A Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1041 with registration G-VLUX passes the moon as it takes off from Heathrow Airport. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

Virgin Atlantic are reportedly preparing to beg the government for a £7.5bn ($9bn) state aid handout so that the airline can survive the coronavirus pandemic which is battering the airline industry.

Peter Norris, chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways' majority shareholder, Virgin Group, is set to write to the prime minister to explain that Britain's airline industry needs a massive injection of emergency cash from the taxpayer to prevent thousands of jobs from being wiped out, according to Sky News.

Travel bans around the globe combined with people deciding not to holiday because of the deadly virus means profits have plummeted for a number of airline companies.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), an aviation industry trade group, said that airlines could lose between $63bn (£50bn) and $113bn in revenues as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

READ MORE: Airlines face unparalleled blow from coronavirus outbreak

The prediction represented a sharp jump from last month, when it estimated that the industry would only lose $29bn.

So far, the coronavirus pandemic pushed airline Flybe into collapse, risking 2,000 jobs while Norwegian airlines (NAS.OL) up to half its workforce could face “temporary layoffs” as it cancelled more flights over the coronavirus pandemic.

Sky News reports that Mr Norris's letter — which is also understood to be being signed by Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic's chief executive — would ask the government to provide airlines with a credit facility to help them finance themselves through a potentially protracted period of negligible revenue.

GMB, the union of aviation workers, has backed calls for ministers to step in and give the industry a bail-out. But the union warns it must come with “iron guarantees” from aviation employers that jobs and pay will be protected.

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Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer said: “Thousands of workers whose livelihoods depend on the aviation industry are at immediate risk as a result of this global pandemic.

“Government support is urgent and necessary to prevent otherwise viable businesses going to the wall as a result of this crisis, which would result in a jobs catastrophe and a domino effect.

“Ministers must not, however, write a blank cheque for irresponsible magnates to line their pockets or squirrel away offshore.

READ MORE: Coronavirus risks pushing hotel, cafe, and bar businesses into extinction

“State aid for aviation must have iron guarantees attached to protect jobs and pay of the many thousands of UK workers who depend directly and directly on aviation.

“The industry can recover and it will be essential for skilled workers already working for airlines and in the supply chain to be ready to pick up the job, but without a rescue package now the industry’s future hangs in the balance."

For the latest news and updates on the coronavirus, check out the Yahoo News live blog on the subject.