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The Internet Roasts Richard Branson for Asking Virgin Atlantic Employees to Take Unpaid Leave

The Internet Roasts Richard Branson for Asking Virgin Atlantic Employees to Take Unpaid Leave
Kaelin Dodge

Billionaire Richard Branson’s airline grounds 75% of flights.

The coronavirus is affecting business all over the world, with airlines and the travel industry getting hit the hardest. As a result of canceled travel plans and border closures, Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic was forced to reduce their fleet by 75%.

After announcing this reduction, Branson alerted his team that there would have to be additional cuts, now requiring thousands of employees to take an eight-week long unpaid leave. This puts those employees out of work for nearly two months, without access to unemployment.

Why This Is Ruffling Feathers

The billionaire is receiving harsh criticism for his handling of the situation. The employees are now not only without work for 8+ weeks but have no way to collect unemployment. Asking the employees to take an unpaid leave does not read as termination.

In addition to cutting hours, Branson also reduced sick pay from six months to 12-weeks.

Branson’s Own Wealth

Many see that Richard Branson the personal wealth to pay these employees, with a net worth of 4.1 billion.

In This Reddit post, one user points out what they see as the irony of it all.

Image Source: u/29adamski/Reddit

Let us know your thoughts on how Branson is handling the current crisis by leaving a comment below, and make sure to check in to our FlyerTalk Forums for news on all thing airline industry.

View Comments (7)


  1. jonsail

    March 23, 2020 at 11:02 am

    Very factually mis-leading article. Branson does not 100% own the airline. It is a publicly traded company. If Branson made the suggested offer it would be out of his pocket and he might be liable for gift tax and/or the employee’s liable for income tax. There may be government aid coming.

    Virgin Atlantic may at some point be asking for government aid. That may be the time to negotiate compensation for the unpaid leave.

    The issue of very wealthy business owners benefiting from a US government aid package to airlines and other businesses is what is currently holding up the US aid package.

  2. blue2002

    March 23, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    I also highly doubt that forcing a big chunk of the company’s workforce into a lengthy unpaid leave would not constitute grounds for unemployment benefits in most mature jurisdictions. Constructive dismissal.

  3. glob99

    March 23, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    Billionaires asking for sacrifice from folks that make less money in one year than he makes in one day. Sounds fair.

  4. Tack

    March 23, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    At the end of the day, Branson is just a capitalist. I’ve got no problem with that, except that he loves to paint himself as this “woke” business man. Fact is, every airline he’s ever started is broke, merged or run by those other airlines that know what they’re doing. He’s always been a fraud.

  5. Irpworks

    March 24, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    A business cannot survive paying people not to work. Pay is compensation for specific productivity not for perceived social goods. If you go out of business, no one gets paid at all for anything.

  6. pulokk1

    March 25, 2020 at 6:50 am

    jonsail: it is you who are being misleading. The post does not day Branson owns 100% of the airline. It says his net worth is 4.1 billion.

    Irpworks: yes, a business can survive paying people not to work. Depending on the net assets of the business or, in this case, one of its owners.

  7. GrayAnderson

    March 28, 2020 at 8:18 pm

    The article ignores three key facts:
    (1) A lot of Branson’s wealth is highly illiquid under the
    best of circumstances (e.g. his stake in Virgin Atlantic)…and we are NOT under said best circumstances.
    (2) Branson injected GBP250 million into his group, with a lot of that going to Virgin Atlantic.
    (3) Virgin wasn’t immensely profitable, had just seen an investment in Flybe go to zero, and had the better part of GNP3bn/yr in revenue to cover.

    My guess is that while Branson might be able to put a little more into Virgin Atlantic, his ability to support the company through a lengthy downturn and protracted recovery would be limited.

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