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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Virgin Atlantic returns to profit
Virgin Atlantic tail fins
Virgin Atlantic: Back on course?
Virgin Atlantic has returned to profit, in a sign of the aviation industry's recovery from the slump following the 11 September terror strikes.

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, who owns 51% of the airline, credited its revival largely down to "hard work and dedication" of the airline's workforce.

The carrier posted underlying profits of almost 5m for the three months ending in April.

The recent improvement in Virgin Atlantic's profits mirrors the reviving traffic reported by airports operator BAA, and also by British Airways which releases its latest results statement on Monday.

Passenger numbers

Virgin's return to profit will be viewed by analysts as a further indication of the success of cost-cutting drives.

These were implemented by carriers as passenger numbers slid following the attacks - particularly on the Atlantic routes served by Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic shed 1,900 jobs, although it has since created 300.

Sir Richard said Virgin Atlantic's return to profits reflected the carrier's "quick and decisive" shake-up following 11 September.

The carrier cut prices to as low as 98 for a return trip from London to New York in November and December.

The proportion of seats taken on Virgin Atlantic flights was 85-90% over the quarter, compared with 80-85% a year before, although overall passenger numbers were down 6%.

"It's a tremendous achievement to register a trading profit in the last three months after the terrible challenges the airline faced last year," Sir Richard said.

The statement came as flights to and from Britain were hit by cancellations and delays because of a computer glitch at the country's National Air Traffic Service, in which Virgin Atlantic invested last year.

See also:

04 Apr 02 | Business
BA reports fall in passenger numbers
20 Feb 02 | Business
Virgin orders new Airbus jets
17 Sep 01 | Business
Virgin Atlantic cuts 1,200 jobs
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