The two airlines plan for their new partnership to take off on March 30th 2014, combining slots at Heathrow.
Virgin Atlantic has had a tough year, with rising fuel costs and increased competition from rivals. It recently reported losses of £80m.
ITV Meridian reports exclusively on how experts from the South strip-out and re-fit Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747 fleet.
Sir Richard Branson spoke to Sangeeta Bhabra at a party to launch Virgin Atlantic Airway's new uniform for flight crew in London.
Virgin Atlantic, whose headquarters are at Crawley in West Sussex, have produced a new safety message for pre-flight passengers. It sets out to make a routine message more appealing using themes from hit films.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic told ITV Meridian that the last flight departing Sydney to Hong Kong bringing passengers back to the UK will be on 5th May 2014, The last flight departing Hong Kong to Sydney will be on the day before.
Up to that date, Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate its published schedule and Virgin Atlantic say customers can be confident booking flights for travel prior to then. The move will affect some staff based in Sydney and Hong Kong. A consultation period has commenced with them.
In a statement the airline's Chief Executive explained why they'd make the decision.
– Craig Kreeger, Chief Executive at Virgin Atlantic
Unfortunately we intend to withdraw our services between Sydney and Hong Kong. Despite the best efforts of our employees, external factors such as increasing costs and a weakening Australian dollar have affected our profitability. These are still difficult times for the airline industry and as part of our strategy to operate more efficiently, we need to deploy our aircraft to routes with the right level of demand to be financially viable.”
Vivienne Westwood's new designs for Virgin Atlantic Airways, whose headquarters are at Crawley in West Sussex, are now being introduced across the airline's 7,500 staff at Gatwick and Heathrow.
The trademark red uniforms for flight attendants have been given a contemporary twist and there's a new look for pilots and ground crew too. The uniforms use nanotechnology to repel stains and keep their shape and colour longer.
Passengers on flights from Gatwick and Heathrow will see the new uniforms over the next few months on selected routes as they are assessed and rated by crew. They will then be introduced next year.
Chief executive Craig Kreeger said weak economic conditions and the Olympic Games in London, which dented demand for business travel, were factors in the airline's latest loss of £93 million for the year to February 28.
It has also suffered from high fuel costs, strong competition on transatlantic routes and taxes on UK air travel, although the figures showed it still increased revenues by 5% to £2.9 billion. It carried 5.5 million passengers in the period, an increase of 188,000 on a year earlier.
Mr Kreeger, who took over from Steve Ridgway as chief executive in February after a 27-year career at American Airlines, recently announced a staff pay freeze as part of a wider cost-cutting programme at the airline's Gatwick HQ and across the company.
Virgin hopes that its ties with US operator Delta, which acquired a 49% stake in the airline last year, will help it compete more forcefully with the British Airways-American Airlines alliance in the lucrative transatlantic market.
Today's airline loss contributed to a pre-tax deficit of £69.9 million for the wider group, which includes** **Virgin Holidays. The previous year's group loss was £80.2 million, with the airline deficit being £98.6 million in 2012.
Sir Richard was with the ground team in the Mojave Desert in New Mexico to witness what he describes as 'the single most important flight test to date' for Virgin Galactic space travel programme. Two key elements of their spaceflight system came together today. The spacecraft and its rocket motor.
Both had been extensively on their own over several years, this was the first time they'd been tested together. Sir Richard praised the work of the team working on the project to reach this milestone.
Responding to the publication of Heathrow Airport’s future investment plans and charges for the period 2014 to 2019, Virgin Atlantic Chief Operating Officer Steve Griffiths said:
– Virgin Atlantic Chief Operating Officer Steve Griffith
Virgin Atlantic is totally committed to improving the passenger experience at Heathrow. However, we believe this can be done without a repeat of the incredibly steep price rises we have seen in airport charges in the last few years. Prices at Heathrow are triple the level they were ten years ago. Clearly this is a concern for all passengers travelling through Heathrow, and all airlines operating there.