Virgin Australia announced it is to stand down 80 per cent of its staff and increase its domestic capacity reductions from 50 to 90 per cent from Friday until 12 June. Tigerair services are suspended immediately.
The decision will affect 8,000 workers, who will be able to draw down their accrued leave entitlements. It follows a dramatic escalation in state border restrictions, which on Tuesday saw Tasmania and Queensland ban all non-essential travel.
For more on our in-depth coverage, click the links below or read on:
- Chief executive Paul Scurrah hinted the airline could be significantly different after the coronavirus crisis ends.
- The TWU called on the government to supplement 80 per cent of affected workers’ wages.
- See every route and suspension affected, and what to do if you’re booked on those flights.
- Alongside the stand-downs, Virgin announced proposals to shut its New Zealand cabin crew and pilot base, and its Tigerair Melbourne pilot base.
- If you’re an affected worker and want to know your legal rights, see our interview with one of Australia’s top employment lawyers.
Virgin has said it’s talking to 25 partners to provide stood down staff with short- and longer-term work during the crisis. The move follows Qantas’ discussions with Woolworths.
However, it warned that, for some, “leave without pay will be inevitable”.
The group capacity cuts will mean temporarily grounding 125 aircraft and suspending services to 19 destinations. However, the airline group will continue to operate “near daily” services to 17 locations to transport essential services, freight and logistics.
This is in addition to the earlier announced move to halt all international flights from 30 March to 14 June.
Significantly, the business plans to close its New Zealand cabin crew and pilot base, and its Tigerair Australia Melbourne pilot base and is in consultation with staff. Virgin operated lounges are already shut.
Chief executive Paul Scurrah released a lengthy statement announcing the decision, saying, “There has never been a travel environment in Australia as restricted as the one we see today and the extraordinary steps we’ve taken have been in response to the federal and state governments’ latest travel advice.
“We are now facing what will be the biggest grounding of aircraft in this country’s history. From the end of this week, we will begin repositioning and grounding more than 125 aircraft in our fleet, suspending almost all our domestic and international flying until at least the middle of June.
“I know our people have been working tirelessly to help guests get home ahead of the various state travel restrictions and their efforts should be applauded as they adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
“We plan to return Tigerair Australia and Virgin Australia to the skies as soon as it’s viable to do so, however, I am mindful that how we operate today may look different when we get to the other side of this crisis.
“My focus has been on guiding this company through the crisis, and at the same time ensure the business is set on a sustainable path when the recovery eventually comes.
“I am only too aware of how much our people are hurting at the moment and these very tough decisions have weighed heavily on me and my leadership team. We are talking to our teams and we are working hard to do what we can to protect jobs and extend payments for as long as possible.”
The move was hinted on Sunday night after Prime Minister Scott Morrison effectively banned interstate travel.
On Tuesday, states and territories moved rapidly to close, or essentially close, their borders.
However, NSW and Victoria are still holding firm. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday, “I’m not interested in closing our borders, I don’t think that makes a lot of sense for us. I have no advice to close our borders and I think it might well be a drain on precious resources, because you can’t have a rule and then not enforce it.”
NSW has made a similar commitment.
The Transport Workers Union confirmed it is working with Virgin Australia to help affected staff.