Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah has hinted the airline group will not simply carry on as before when the COVID-19 crisis finally ends.
In a statement released on Wednesday morning, he warned, “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.”
The business has indicated it is to close its New Zealand cabin crew base and Tiger Australia Melbourne pilot base, with the company commencing consultation.
Earlier, Virgin said it would temporarily stand down 80 per cent of its staff, and increase domestic capacity restrictions from 50 to 90 per cent from midnight, Friday, 27 March until 14 June. Tigerair is to suspend all services immediately.
Scurrah said, “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.”
On Tuesday, it was revealed Virgin wrote to the competition watchdog, the ACCC, to formally complain about Qantas’ recent attacks on the airline, questioning its future viability.
In the letter, later obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald, Scurrah said Qantas’ actions “could cause immediate and irreparable damage to a competitive Australian air passenger transport industry”.
Scurrah continued, “Virgin Australia has seen widespread reporting of public comments from Qantas and its executive team questioning directly or indirectly Virgin Australia’s financial viability and encouraging [the] government to refrain from extending any government support for the aviation industry to Virgin Australia.”
He accused Qantas of falsely briefing journalists that Virgin Australia’s cash reserves were running low.
Scurrah was thought to be referring to numerous statements by Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce urging the government not to bailout Virgin.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning for instance, 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.”