Virgin Group head Richard Branson said his airline, Virgin Atlantic, could go under if it doesn't get support in the form of a commercial loan from the U.K. government.
In a public letter to employees posted on social media, Branson said that Virgin Group will "do everything we can to keep the airline going" but that it will need government support in order for that to happen.
"This would be in the form of a commercial loan - it wouldn’t be free money and the airline would pay it back (as easyJet will do for the £600m loan the government recently gave them)," Branson said.
Branson added the airline industry is being uniquely pressured by the coronavirus pandemic as travel restrictions and a decreased appetite for travel weigh on the industry.
He noted that Virgin Atlantic employees and their unions agreed to a wage reduction for eight weeks. And while the company was widely criticized for the announcement, Branson said that the decision was not forced upon them by management.
Branson has received criticism about asking his employees to take a pay cut while his net worth is in the billions. It was an issue he addressed in his letter to employees.
"I’ve seen lots of comments about my net worth - but that is calculated on the value of Virgin businesses around the world before this crisis, not sitting as cash in a bank account ready to withdraw. Over the years significant profits have never been taken out of the Virgin Group, instead, they have been reinvested in building businesses," Branson said.