Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Virgin Atlantic cautious on 2024 amid UK woes, global volatility

Virgin Atlantic cautious on 2024 amid UK woes, global volatility
Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic holds up a model of a spaceship unveiled at a news conference Wednesday January 23, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Virgin Atlantic Airways is cautious on how travel demand will evolve in 2024, as economic woes in the UK and geopolitical uncertainty make it difficult for the British airline to predict consumer trends in the coming year.

Elections taking place in the US and UK, the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars, and economic challenges in Virgin Atlantic’s home country make the outlook for next year “hard to call”, CEO Shai Weiss said in an interview. 

A long, negative economic cycle since Brexit has had an impact on demand in the UK, particularly among corporate customers, Weiss said, speaking as the airline conducted the first transatlantic flight powered by fully sustainable fuels. 

Read More: Branson’s Latest Dare Reveals Aviation’s Green Challenge

“It’s just unusually unpredictable,” said Weiss. “I don’t think anybody would say they are super optimistic; it’s not super negative. I think you’re going to hear neutral to cautious.”

Weiss joins other major airline CEOs expressing less conviction of a repeat of 2023’s bumper summer business. IAG’s Luis Gallego said last month that the airline was mindful of geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainty, while Air France-KLM signalled a more cautious stance going forward.

The airline chief said forward bookings were looking OK, and that the airline had a strong performance on Black Friday, extending its sale by a day due to strong demand. 

Despite the caution over the coming year, Weiss said Virgin remains committed to returning to profitability in 2024 through focusing on what it can control, such as elements of its cost base.

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