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Hundreds of older Virgin Atlantic cabin crew members say they were unfairly dismissed during the pandemic

Pete Syme   

Hundreds of older Virgin Atlantic cabin crew members say they were unfairly dismissed during the pandemic
  • Virgin Atlantic cut thousands of jobs after the pandemic struck in 2020.
  • More than 200 former cabin crew members are suing the airline, claiming unfair dismissal.

Virgin Atlantic is being sued by more than 200 former cabin crew members who say the airline unfairly targeted older staffers for dismissals during the pandemic, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

The airline, founded by the billionaire Richard Branson, cut 3,000 jobs — about a third of its workforce — in May 2020. Virgin Atlantic also retired its Boeing 747 jumbo jets a year early and closed its base at London Gatwick Airport as it tried to avoid bankruptcy.

Some staffers who were made redundant — a UK employment process similar to layoffs but with more legal protections — were then added to what the airline called a "holding pool" to potentially be rehired.

In its 2021 annual report, Virgin Atlantic said it rehired 99 pilots and 724 cabin crew members from the holding pool, "something we had committed to doing as soon as possible in the reorganisation of 2020."

But one of the claims indicates the airline retained about 350 newer cabin crew members, some of whom had as little as one week of training, while it made managers, who were on average 45 years old with 20 years of experience, redundant, The Guardian's report said.

The claims are set to be examined by an employment tribunal in London starting next month. About 150 workers are reportedly being represented by the Cabin Crew Union, another 51 by a law firm, and a further 11 elsewhere.

Susan Mcentegart, a 53-year-old former cabin manager who worked at the airline for 23 years, told The Guardian: "It seemed the world was closing down and losing jobs was inevitable. But the way they went about it seemed unfair."

"I was flabbergasted that I wasn't in the holding pool," she added. "There were people who hadn't even got their wings — after six weeks of training — in the pool, and there seemed to be too many of us of an age that were left out."

Virgin Atlantic said in a statement: "Throughout the redundancy process, we were committed to ensuring all our people were treated fairly and compassionately. To allow as many of our people to return as soon as demand allowed, we introduced a holding pool, which meant that more than 1,000 of our cabin crew returned at their previous level of seniority.

"Where people had to unfortunately leave us, it was for unbiased, objective and lawful reasons, after full consultation with our recognized unions, elected colleague representatives and clear and open continued communication."


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