Virgin Atlantic CEO says leisure travel remains robust, expects to return to profitability in 2024

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2024 will be a hard year to predict, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss told FOX Business when asked about his expectations on demand in the new year.

With “Brexit, followed by COVID, followed by two devastating wars, one in Europe and one in the Middle East, cost of living, interest rates and energy prices fluctuating, it’s hard to predict 2024,” Weiss told FOX Business during an interview Tuesday evening. 

Even still, Weiss, who helped navigate the carrier through years of geopolitical tensions, a harrowing pandemic and a tumultuous economy, says the airline is on track to return to profitability in 2024.

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The chief executive was uplifted, in particular, when the carrier had the biggest Black Friday sale in its history. 

Even though consumers are still contending with a difficult economy, sales soared past expectations, which Weiss said is a “good indication” of what’s to come. Although the airline is based in the United Kingdom, about 40% of Virgin Atlantic tickets are sold in the United States. 

Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines each have ownership stakes in the company at 51% and 49%, respectively. 

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While leisure travel has already bounced back as consumers continue to prioritize experiences, corporate demand remains muted. 

“I think it’s fair to say that the premium demand or leisure demand has remained robust, and I think people are still prioritizing travel and experiences,” Weiss added.

In terms of corporate demand, though, volumes have not yet returned to 2019 levels, which is a trend he is seeing both within the U.S. and the U.K., Weiss said. 

Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A330neo

“The question that you’ll ask me, I ask myself, is this structural or is this transitory? I think a bit of both,” Weiss said. 

Currently, corporate demand has recovered at 80% of 2019 levels across the long-haul carrier’s entire network, “growing to hopefully 100% somewhere in 2024, 2025.” 

Weiss noted that there are good reasons why demand has been slower to return on the corporate side. 

 

For one, there was a writers strike in Hollwood and the tech industry hadn’t been doing as well as it could, he said. 

On top of that, there was muted financial activity in terms of mergers and acquisitions and IPOs in the United States. 

“I think all that tells us there could be a better recovery of the corporate demand,” he said.

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