British airline Virgin Atlantic announced Wednesday that it was permanently ceasing operations in Hong Kong due to issues related to the closure of Russian airspace.
The decision marks the end of the carrier’s London Heathrow to Hong Kong flight route and the closure of its Hong Kong office. It also calls time on the airline’s 30-year presence in the Asian financial hub.
Virgin Atlantic said in a statement that the closure of Russian airspace following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in late February was one of several “complexities” contributing to the decision.
It said that on the basis of the airspace remaining closed, Heathrow to London flight times would be around one hour longer than in 2019, while Hong Kong to Heathrow flights would be 1 hour 50 minutes longer.
It added that the 2019 termination of Virgin Australia’s Hong Kong to Melbourne and Hong Kong to Sydney services had already reduced the airline’s presence in the city-state.
“After careful consideration we’ve taken the difficult decision to suspend our London Heathrow – Hong Kong services and close our Hong Kong office, after almost 30 years of proudly serving this Asian hub city,” a spokesperson for the airline said.
“Significant operational complexities due to the ongoing Russian airspace closure have contributed to the commercial decision not to resume flights in March 2023 as planned, which have already been paused since December 2021,” it added.
Virgin Atlantic has not operated any passenger flights to Hong Kong since Dec. 2021, after the city-state suspended all flights from the U.K. due to a resurgence in Covid-19 cases.
The airline was previously due to resume Hong Kong services from March 2023. However, with Wednesday’s announcement, it said it would be able to increase services in other key markets from next summer.
Around 46 Virgin Atlantic jobs, including those of office staff and cabin crew, are set to be impacted by the decision, according to Bloomberg.
The airline said it would offer refunds or vouchers for alternate Virgin Atlantic services to the “limited number” of customers due to travel from March next year.
Virgin’s exit from Hong Kong is the first by a major airline since American Airlines left the city in late 2021.