The UK company cited a string of factors as reasons behind the decision, including issues arising from Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
“After careful consideration, we’ve taken the difficult decision to suspend our London Heathrow to Hong Kong services and close our Hong Kong office, after almost 30 years of proudly serving this Asian hub city,” an airline spokesperson said in a statement.
The airline said that “ongoing Russian airspace closure,” which would result in Heathrow to Hong Kong flight times being extended by between one an two hours had also played a part in its decision.
Customers who booked to travel beginning March 2023 will be offered a refund, voucher, or the option to rebook on an alternative Virgin Atlantic route, the spokesperson said.
“Our people and customers in Hong Kong have been amazing since we first touched down at the famous Kai Tak Airport in 1994, and since then we’ve provided important connectivity between the UK and Hong Kong for thousands of customers and supported global supply chains through our cargo operations,” the spokesperson said.
Virgin Atlantic is owned by British billionaire Richard Branson and was founded in 1984. The company launched its first flight from the United Kingdom to Hong Kong in 1994.
The airline had suspended passenger flights to Hong Kong in December 2021 amid a ban on flights out of the United Kingdom amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but those flights had been set to resume in March 2023.
Covid Cases Prompt Airlines to Reduce Services
However, that date was later pushed back after Hong Kong remained under strict lockdown amid a new wave of COVID-19 cases, prompting a string of airlines to also cut or reduce flights to the financial hub.
At the time, Virgin Atlantic said the deadline was being pushed back due to “ongoing operational complexities” on the flight route.
The company said on Wednesday that aircraft that had been set to fly to Hong Kong would instead be used to “increase frequencies in other key markets from the Summer 2023 schedule.”
Bloomberg reports that roughly 46 Virgin Atlantic jobs will be affected by the latest decision to pull out of Hong Kong, with job losses also expected among office staff and cabin crew.
Wednesday’s announcement also means that British Airways and Cathay Pacific will now be the only airlines providing nonstop flights between London and Hong Kong. British Airways is set to resume flights to Hong Kong beginning Dec. 6, according to its official website.
This isn’t the first time that Virgin has scrapped flights to Hong Kong. Virgin Australia removed Hong Kong to Melbourne and Hong Kong to Sydney services in 2019 after what it said was a “comprehensive review of the route.”
John MacLeod, Virgin Australia Group’s chief commercial officer, said at the time that Hong Kong had “continued to be a challenging market” and that a decline in demand following ongoing civil unrest and concerns over the spread of COVID-19 had promoted the company’s decision to pull its services.
The Epoch Times has contacted Virgin Atlantic for comment.