Manchester airport pleads with Government for Virgin Atlantic bailout

Virgin Planes

Manchester airport’s owner is pleading with the chancellor to prop up Virgin Atlantic as the airline makes a last-ditch lobbying push for a £500m taxpayer bailout to survive the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, the boss of Manchester Airports Group, Charlie Cornish, stresses the carrier’s key role as the biggest long-haul operator at Manchester, flying nearly one million people a year to New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

“These services are directly benefiting the economies of Manchester and the surrounding region,” Cornish, 60, writes. “Virgin Atlantic’s growth in capacity has been essential in allowing Manchester to become one of the best-connected European airports to the USA.”

Virgin Atlantic is seeking a mix of loans and guarantees. It posted £26m of losses in 2018, had £1.5bn debt and has mortgaged its most valuable runway slots for £220m.

Aerospace manufacturers Airbus and Rolls-Royce have also lobbied for the airline.

The Treasury said it would consider individual bailout requests “so long as all other government schemes have been explored and all commercial options exhausted, including raising capital from existing investors”.