Virgin Atlantic pulls out of Hong Kong after 30 years

Virgin Atlantic plane, Hong Kong, closure of Russian airspace
Virgin Atlantic plane, Hong Kong, closure of Russian airspace

Virgin Atlantic is pulling out of Hong Kong, scrapping flights and shutting its offices as strict Covid restrictions batter the island's status as a global financial hub.

Ending three decades flying to Hong Kong, Sir Richard Branson’s airline blamed the closure of Russian airspace as well as the declining profitability of the route.

Many airlines have temporarily suspended flights to Hong Kong after the region left hotel quarantines in place for overseas visitors. The restrictions were finally lifted last week.

The measures forced a number of carriers to withdraw from Hong Kong, the most recent being American Airlines late last year.

Virgin Australia has already halted services between Sydney and Melbourne and Hong Kong.

Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard’s flagship that he set up in 1984, has not flown to Hong Kong since last December.

The fallout on airlines’ finances of the closing of Russian airspace following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been cushioned by Asian countries continuing to impose Covid restrictions and lockdowns.

Many long-haul routes east have been temporarily halted in the face of these restrictions, sparing carriers the extra cost associated with flying around Russia.

Flying around Russia to Hong Kong added an extra one hour of flying time, which in turn forced planes to carry extra fuel, the price of which is soaring.

Some 46 staff will be impacted by Virgin Atlantic’s withdrawal from Hong Kong.

A spokesman said: “We’re very sorry for the disappointment caused to our loyal customers on this route and anyone booked to travel from March 2023 will be offered a refund, voucher or the option to rebook on an alternative Virgin Atlantic route.”

In a note to corporate customers, seen by Bloomberg, the airline added: “We’re constantly reviewing the performance of our network and as part of our long term strategy of being sustainably profitable.

“We’re committed to only flying profitable routes.”