Virgin Atlantic Agrees to Private-Only $1.5B Rescue Deal

LONDON (Reuters) -
A Boeing 747 operated by Virgin Atlantic Airways takes off at London’s Gatwick airport in Crawley, U.K. (Bloomberg/Simon Dawson)

British airline Virgin Atlantic said on Tuesday it had agreed to a private-only rescue deal with shareholders and creditors worth £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) to secure its future beyond the coronavirus crisis.

It said the restructuring plan was supported by a majority of shareholders, and is expected to come into effect in late summer 2020.

The airline has had to close its Gatwick base and cut over 3,500 jobs to reshape in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has grounded planes and slashed demand for air travel.

“The last six months have been the toughest we have faced in our 36-year history. We have taken painful measures, but we have accomplished what many thought impossible,” Chief Executive Shai Weiss said in a statement.

“We greatly appreciate the support of our shareholders, creditors and new private investors and, together, we will ensure that Virgin Atlantic can emerge as a sustainably profitable airline, with a healthy balance sheet.”

Founder Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group owns 51% of Virgin Atlantic alongside U.S. airline Delta with 49%, said in April the airline would only survive if it received support from the U.K. government.

However, the airline clinched a deal without public funding. Virgin Group will invest £200 million, as part of £600 million in support from shareholders.

New partner Davidson Kempner Capital Management, an investment firm, will also provide £170 million in secured funding, while creditors are giving the airline support through over £450 million worth of deferrals.

In all, the support is worth £1.2 billion over 18 months, and the airline, which is restarting passenger flights on July 20, said it was aiming to return to profitability from 2022.