Virgin Atlantic has been given an air operator's certificate for a new corporate entity called Virgin Atlantic International.
The weekend disclosure sparked speculation that the airline is looking to raise £200 million from a bond issue against its valuable Heathrow runway slots.
Virgin will reportedly announce the plan within the next few weeks, using the new entity as a holder of the take-off and landing slots if Virgin Atlantic were ever to go under.
In the meantime, Virgin Atlantic International will operate a small clutch of long-haul leisure routes from Gatwick, the Sunday Times reported.
It cited city sources as saying Virgin had introduced another layer of security for its investors by incorporating a trust to hold the slots in the case of airline insolvency.
Virgin is expected to use some of the money raised to invest in new aircraft. It plans to own, rather than lease, some of the new Boeing 787s it has on order.
Virgin Atlantic said it did not comment on “market speculation”.
But the airline said: “We can confirm the Civil Aviation Authority has now granted us an air operator certificate for a new entity called Virgin Atlantic International.”
Airlines have long struggled with their inability to raise money on runway slots.
British Airways had to abandon a scheme to raise £450 million against its Heathrow slots due to the complexity of the plan in 2012.
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