Virgin Atlantic, the Australian airline owned by billionaire Richard Branson has been hit hard by the global COVID-19 pandemic, with 85 per cent of its aircraft currently grounded.
This has caused significant financial hardship for the company, which has just been placed in default.
After asking for financial aid from the British government in the form of a loan estimated at 572 million euros (over 875 million Canadian dollars), Richard Branson said in an open letter that he has pledged his private island, Necker, located in the British Virgin Islands, as collateral.
"As with other Virgin assets, our team will raise as much money as possible in exchange for the island in order to save as many jobs as possible within the group," Branson explains, before adding that "With the Virgin Atlantic team, we will do everything we can to keep the airline operating, but we will need government support to do so, given the great uncertainty surrounding travel today and the fact that we don't know how long the planes will be immobilized on the ground."
This 74-acre private island (approximately 30 hectares) is used as a luxury resort that can accommodate up to 30 people.
In his letter, Richard Branson also indicates that the Virgin group operates in several sectors that are among the most affected by the coronavirus: aviation, leisure, hotels and cruises with Virgin Voyages.
“We have over 70,000 people in 35 countries who work for Virgin companies. We are doing everything we can to keep these businesses afloat," he explains.
Newcomer to the world of cruises, Virgin Voyages was to begin its first real year of operation with its first ship, the Scarlet Lady, delivered on February 14th and whose first voyage is, for the moment, still scheduled for August 7th.
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