Virgin Atlantic will be resuming flights with Hong Kong from July 20.
The airline has announced that it will also be relaunching services between London Heathrow and New York JFK, Los Angeles, Orlando and Shanghai from July 20 and 21.
More destinations are set to be announced over the next two weeks for August and the new flights will be loaded onto airline systems over the next two weeks.
Passenger flights will then steadily increase throughout the second half of 2020 with a further, gradual recovery in 2021.
However, Virgin says it is monitoring external conditions carefully, particularly travel restrictions. The UK is, somewhat controversially, set to introduce mandatory 14-day quarantine measures from June 8 and Hong Kong announced this week that its two-week quarantine would remain in place until September 18, albeit with some border relaxations.
“Our planned first flights will be to Orlando and Hong Kong on July 20, however, we are monitoring external conditions extremely closely,” said Juha Jarvinen, Virgin Atlantic’s chief commercial officer. “We know that as the Covid-19 crisis subsides, air travel will be a vital enabler of the UK’s economic recovery. We’re looking forward to welcoming our customers back on board.”
Virgin Atlantic is currently operating temporarily from Heathrow’s Terminal 2. Its ‘home’ terminal, T3, is closed due to the airport’s terminal consolidation.
To accommodate the new normal, the airline will also be introducing new safety measures “at every point in the journey”.
Ramped up hygiene measures include the use of electrostatic spraying of high-grade disinfectant onboard, safe distancing at check-in and boarding and the requirement of passengers to wear masks. All passengers will be provided with a Health Pack with medical grade face masks, surface wipes and hand gel. In the short term, the airline will be offering a simplified hot food service.
According to Corneel Koster, chief customer officer at Virgin Atlantic, the airline will also be carrying out health questionnaires before check-in. “We are calling on airport and health authorities to put temperature checks in place as part of a multi-layered, end-to-end health screen,” he said.
“While we continuously review our measures, wearing a mask for the duration of the flight will initially be required… Our customers are in safe hands and we are really looking forward to welcoming them back onboard from July 20.”
Virgin Atlantic has continued to operate cargo-only flights during the pandemic and throughout June it plans to fly more than 600 cargo-only services to Tel Aviv, Chicago, Brussels, Johannesburg, Lagos and Miami.
The airline will also be partnering with the UK’s Department of Health and the British National Health Service on 17 medical supply cargo charters per week from Shanghai and Beijing. To date, the airline has carried more than 44 million items of Personal Protective Equipment from China to the UK.