Virgin upbeat despite operating loss

Sir Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic announced today that it made a big operating loss last year but that revenues and passenger numbers rose in the first part of this year.

Virgin's group pre-tax operating loss for the period March 2009 to February 2010 was £132 million, compared with a profit of £60 million for March 2008 to February 2009.



Revenues for 2009/10 decreased 8.6% to £2.35 billion but operating costs reduced 8%.



The company's airline revenue for the period March-May 2010 was up 10% to £513 million, while its planes flew 82% full during this period - a 5% improvement on the same period last year.



Virgin said it carried 15% more passengers in its Upper Class (first class) cabin in March-May 2010 and also benefited from a successful start to its new service to Accra in Ghana.



The airline said customer compensation and operational cost of the Iceland volcanic ash cloud crisis was likely to cost it £30 million.



Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said: "The start of the year has been encouraging despite difficult trading conditions. Demand is picking up across the majority of our routes and forward bookings for the summer have been very positive.



"From all of the major operational challenges that we have faced this year - including snow and volcanic ash - the response from everyone at Virgin Atlantic has been outstanding."



Mr Ridgway went on: "Along with the rest of the industry, we have just faced one of the toughest years in our history. However, the early action that we took to deal with the losses from the worst recession on record not only enabled us to protect the business, but provided us with a strong platform for growth this year.



"We have just delivered a new brand identity, are hiring hundreds of new staff and are looking forward to the new aircraft deliveries early next spring."

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