RICHARD BRANSON has been slammed for requesting a £500 million Government bailout while sitting on a multi-billion pound fortune.

Greenpeace said the Virgin Atlantic owner should only be handed the money if he agrees to change his business to meet a series of conditions.

The airline, which has its headquarters in Crawley, announced earlier this month that it would be stopping all flights from Gatwick and cutting more than 3,000 jobs.

It has taken this action “in order for the airline to emerge from the (coronavirus) crisis”.

The Argus:

A Greenpeace spokeswoman said: “This crisis has exposed the fragile foundations of our economy. It’s also shown how corporations like this will always act in their own interests.

“It’s clear that there’s a dire need to build a better future for the planet and all its people.

“To do that, the airline industry needs to change.”

The charity has written an open letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking that no Government bailouts are given to airlines unless certain criteria are met.

The Argus:

It has been signed more than 149,000 times.

It said the companies must agree to protect workers, saying “workers’ rights, pay and representation should be the priority, not profits for shareholders or bosses”.

Greenpeace also urged the Government to protect the climate, saying it “must reduce the number of flights to tackle the sector’s climate impact without relying on offsetting”.

The final condition was that airlines “protect the public”.

The Greenpeace spokeswoman said: “The industry has to start paying a fair share of tax, including a frequent flyer levy, and make sure those who fly the most pay the most.

The Argus:

“Now more than ever, public money must be used for public good – anything less won’t fly.”

Virgin Atlantic responded to the charity’s campaign.

A spokeswoman said: “Because of significant costs to our business caused by unprecedented market conditions which the Covid-19 crisis has brought with it, we are exploring all available options to obtain additional external funding.

“[Global investment bank] Houlihan Lokey has been appointed to assist the process, focusing on private sector funding.

“Meanwhile, we continue to take decisive action to reduce our costs, preserve cash and protect as many jobs as possible.

The Argus:

“Discussions with a number of stakeholders continue and are constructive, meanwhile the airline remains in a stable position.”

She added: “Virgin Atlantic is committed to continuing to provide essential connectivity on competitive terms to consumers and businesses in Britain and beyond, once we emerge from this crisis.”

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