Richard Branson will invest £215m to save his empire after Virgin Atlantic staff were asked to take eight weeks of unpaid leave – as airline bosses hold crisis talks over bailout
- The billionaire is ploughing funds into his airline, railway and leisure businesses
- The aviation industry is tanking amid reduced demand because of pandemic
- Ministers are locked in urgent talks with airlines to thrash out a rescue plan
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Sir Richard Branson will plough £215million into his business empire to keep it afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
The billionaire mogul said his portfolio of businesses, which includes an airline, railway franchise and leisure centres, was locked in a ‘massive battle to survive’.
Virgin Atlantic in particular has been hurt by the health emergency as countries enforce flight freezes to stem the global spread of infection.
The government has already begun crisis talks to rescue the country’s flagging aviation industry, with big bailout packages understood to be on the table.
But Sir Richard has already announced he will provide his businesses with an urgent cash injection.
Virgin Atlantic planes are grounded on the runway at Glasgow Airport this week as the aviation sector is hurt by coronavirus
Sir Richard Branson will plough £215million of his own money into his business empire to keep it afloat during the coronavirus pandemic
In a blog post, the 69-year-old tycoon said: ‘Our airlines have had to ground almost all their planes; our cruise line has had to postpone its launch; our health clubs and hotels have had to close their doors and all bookings to our holiday company have stopped.
‘Our people have and, will always be, my number one priority. It is their future job security and their wellbeing that I am 100 per cent focusing on, in these frightening and unprecedented times.’
Revealing his funding, he added: ‘We are supporting our people and our businesses in their fight for survival in numerous ways.
‘We are providing a quarter of billion dollars over the next weeks and months to protect them and save jobs – that is likely just the start.’
Virgin companies employ more than 70,000 people across 35 countries and Sir Richard added that recovery would ‘depend critically’ on governments implementing and mobilising support programmes which they had announced.
The businessman was criticised last week by Labour after Virgin Atlantic, founded by Sir Richard, announced it had told staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave due to a sharp drop in demand caused by the outbreak of the virus.
The airline said staff taking unpaid leave will ‘drastically reduce costs without job losses’ and the cost to staff would be spread over six months of salary.
The aviation industry has been among the biggest casualties of the health emergency as demand for plane travel has nosedived.
British Airways, RyanAir and Easyjet have all grounded the majority of their fleets, with BA reportedly burning through £200million a week.
Crisis talks with ministers have begun, with taxpayer-funded loan packages and even part-nationalisation are being considered, according to Whitehall insiders.
Today, Number 10 reassured that the government is ‘working urgently’ to draw up plans for airlines.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The Transport Secretary and his department have been in regular contact with the aviation sector.
‘A number of measures to support the sector are available, including ‘time to pay’, financial support for employees and loan schemes from the Bank of England and the government – as is the case for other sectors.
‘The government is working urgently to develop further measures as necessary.’
Daily crisis round-tables are expected to continue this week so a plan can be thrashed out.