Sir Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic is to recruit more than 1,700 staff next year.

The jobs will be split between Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

The recruitment drive follows the announcement on Wednesday that British Airways, Virgin's big rival, is to shed 1,000 jobs at Gatwick airport in the next two years.

Virgin plans to take on at least 1,000 new cabin crew and more than 250 pilots as it expands its fleet.

Another 450 staff will be recruited as airport staff, ground crew and in reservations, administration and the company's holiday business.

Sir Richard said: "I am committed to the continued expansion of Virgin Atlantic.

"New routes, such as Toronto, increased frequencies to destinations such as Delhi and Cape Town and new aircraft all mean new staff.

"There will be opportunities for pilots, cabin crew, ground crew and airport staff based both at Gatwick and Heathrow."

Virgin started flights to Las Vegas, Delhi, Cape Town and Chicago this year and also increased frequencies to San Francisco and Shanghai. Toronto flights begin next spring and the airline is to deploy four new Boeing 747s at Gatwick.

Virgin currently employs around 8,500 people with around 2,700 of these based in the Crawley area around Gatwick.