Virgin Atlantic said it is on course to make its first profit since the pandemic after strong demand for winter breaks in the Caribbean boosted business.

The airline – which is co-owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and US carrier Delta Airlines – yesterday reported losses of £139million for 2023 following a £206million loss the previous year.

But revenues rose by £265million to a record £3.1billion as high-spending British holidaymakers splashed out on winter breaks in the Caribbean.

Virgin Atlantic is now benefiting from US tourists booking spring and summer trips to Europe and its expansion into India. 

Flights to the Maldives and Dubai have also been in demand.

In demand: Virgin Atlantic is now benefiting from US tourists booking spring and summer trips to Europe and its expansion into India

In demand: Virgin Atlantic is now benefiting from US tourists booking spring and summer trips to Europe and its expansion into India

In demand: Virgin Atlantic is now benefiting from US tourists booking spring and summer trips to Europe and its expansion into India

The turnaround comes after a near-death experience when Covid-19 grounded planes all over the world and left airlines fighting for their futures.

Since then, Virgin Atlantic has been heavily weighed down by the debt it took on to survive the pandemic.

But in a sign the business is now recovering, chief executive Shai Weiss insisted this year would be ‘the turning point for Virgin Atlantic, the culmination of our transformation and the year we can make it count’.

He said the carrier has ‘capitalised on continued strong demand for leisure air travel and holidays’ though business travel is rebounding more slowly.

‘A loss is never satisfactory,’ added Weiss. ‘However, our performance and results illustrate that we have made really good progress in 2023, the plan is working, and Virgin Atlantic is on course to return to profitability in 2024.’

Virgin Atlantic, which was launched in 1984, flew 5.3m passengers to long-haul destinations such as the US, the Caribbean and India last year.

Founder: Virgin Atlantic is co-owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and US carrier Delta Airlines

Founder: Virgin Atlantic is co-owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and US carrier Delta Airlines

Founder: Virgin Atlantic is co-owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and US carrier Delta Airlines

This is some 10 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels while the number of corporate travellers is still down around 20 per cent.

But it is aiming to fly 6m customers this year – a level last achieved in 2019 before the Covid pandemic struck.

Chief financial officer Oliver Byers said passengers were willing to pay ‘robust’ fares and the start of the new year has been ‘very encouraging’. 

He added: ‘We’ve seen very strong demand from a premium leisure perspective and also some further recovery in corporate travel.’

Corporate travel, which unlike leisure has not fully recovered since the pandemic, dipped towards the end of 2023, he said.

Virgin Atlantic, which will launch a second daily service from London to Mumbai in October, is now aiming to increase operating profit to around £200million this year, double the record achieved back in 1999.

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