Hong Kong pullout for Virgin Atlantic

Not a suspension, but a total closure - Virgin Atlantic rips the bandaid off its Hong Kong services after almost three decades.

VIRGIN Atlantic has confirmed the closure of its office in Hong Kong after more than 30 years of serving the destination, indicating the huge difficulty of operating in the post-pandemic environment. Hong Kong had previously been a linchpin in the VS network, with the carrier even operating its own flights from Sydney to London via the Asian hub for some years as well as subsequently offering connections onward from Australia for sister carrier Virgin Australia’s now defunct long-haul international network.

The closure of Russian airspace was cited as a factor in the decision, along with the threat of the reimposition of quarantine restrictions at short notice, and the withdrawal of those VA services in 2019, which had impacted the number of connecting customers from Australia. Virgin Atlantic hasn’t actually flown to Hong Kong since late last year, when authorities in the city banned all flights from the UK due to the Omicron outbreak. VS had planned to resume services in March 2023, and will be offering refunds or rebooking options to impacted passengers. The closure of the office will mean the end of about 50 office staff and cabin crew jobs.

“Looking ahead, we foresee numerous hurdles that would prevent us returning to profitable operations, most notably: significantly longer flight times due to Russian airspace closures, uncertainty around the recovery of corporate and leisure travel between the UK and Hong Kong, further uncertainty over Covid restrictions and quarantines, a tough competitive environment without a local airline partner, and the loss of important connections to Australia since Virgin Australia stopped their flights to Hong Kong,” according to a memo from VS Chief Commercial Officer, Juha Jarvinen.

“We’re constantly reviewing the performance of our network and as part of our long term strategy of being sustainably profitable,” Jarvinen’s memo noted, adding “we’re committed to only flying profitable routes”.

The pullout leaves British Airways and Cathay Pacific as the only operators on the London-Hong Kong route, with BA at this stage indicating it plans to resume services in December this year.

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