Qantas boss Alan Joyce has warned Scott Morrison not to nationalise Virgin Australia despite the coronavirus crisis threatening its business.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning, Joyce said, “It would be completely unfair to our sector. We’d be competing against the Australian government. Qantas couldn’t do that, it would be an unbalanced, uncompetitive environment.”
On Thursday, Qantas made the unprecedented decision to “stand down” two-thirds of its workforce to survive a series of international travel bans. And with Virgin Australia’s share price now significantly below 10 cents, Sky News asked the Qantas Group chief executive his views on a government buyout for its biggest rival.
Joyce said, “The government can’t pick winners and losers, the government has to be fair to every company. Whatever aid it’s giving to one company it must give to everyone in the sector.
“This is worse than the GFC. This will be quite a large recession and the government has to be careful with how they spend money.”
He added that the nation shouldn’t choose to look after “badly managed companies” in an apparent dig at Virgin Australia.
Early on Thursday, Qantas said it would suspend two-thirds of its 30,000 employees until “at least” the end of May.
During what the business is terming a “stand down”, employees will be able to:
- Drawdown annual and long-service leave;
- Take leave at half pay;
- Have early access to long-service leave;
- If their leave balances are low, they can have access to four weeks leave in advance of accruing it; and
- Access ‘additional support mechanisms’.
Virgin Australia has yet to announce similar plans, though it has said it will cancel 90 per cent of its international flights from 30 March to 14 June, and reduce domestic capacity by 50 per cent for the same time period.
The cuts, which include Virgin and Tigerair, amount to the equivalent of grounding 53 aircraft.
Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah said earlier, “We have responded by making tough decisions, which include reducing our domestic capacity and phasing in the temporary suspension of international flying for a period of two and a half months.”