Virgin Atlantic has announced that it will suspend all passenger flights for a week in April, and will instead operate as a cargo-only service to help speed up the delivery of medical supplies to NHS hospitals across the UK.
Due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the airline has suspended a range of passenger flights between 20 and 26 April. This is a result of a decrease in demand, due to the large-scale travel ban currently in place for most countries.
The changes will affect three regular long-haul routes - from Heathrow to New York, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
Virgin Atlantic says the flying programme is being reviewed on a daily basis. The airline, which - despite being owned by billionaire Richard Branson - is currently seeking a £500 million bailout from the government, is working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to offer repatriation flights when required.
What to do if the cancellations affect you
Virgin Atlantic will contact passengers who are booked on the affected flights to discuss options for amending bookings.
The law states that, in the event of a cancellation, the airline must issue a full refund. However, Virgin also has options in place for anyone affected, such as re-booking or rerouting journeys.
A spokesperson for the airline said, "Following the rapid acceleration of Covid-19 and extensive travel restrictions, coupled with a sharp drop in customer demand, Virgin Atlantic is continuing to review its flying programme each day and has made the decision to move most of its current scheduled services to cargo-only services from 20 April until 26 April.
"The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has provided Virgin Atlantic with special dispensation to carry cargo in the cabin as well as the cargo hold, so that we can carry even more essential goods, to ensure global supply chains keep running and transporting essential medical supplies into the UK at this time of crisis.
"Virgin Atlantic will operate both scheduled passenger and cargo services from 27 April, and continue to work closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to help facilitate repatriation flights and bring UK nationals home.
"Customers who have booked flights on these amended services will be contacted with information about alternative options or they can visit virginatlantic.com for more information, including customer centre contact details. We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by these changes and appreciate our customers patience while we navigate this unprecedented situation."