Sir Richard Branson has released a video paying tribute to Virgin Australia’s staff following the airline’s collapse into administration, but also made a pointed attack on the government.
The Virgin Group founder said, “In most countries, federal governments have stepped in, in this unprecedented crisis for aviation, to help their airlines. Sadly, that has not happened in Australia.”
He also took a swipe at Qantas – “our competitor’ – adding that he would do all he could to get the business up and running again.
The airline confirmed to the ASX on Tuesday morning that it had collapsed into administration after struggling to service billions of dollars of debt and having its appeals for financial aid denied by national and state governments.
In the video, posted on Instagram, Sir Richard said, “I’m so proud of all of you at Virgin Australia and everything we’ve achieved together. Twenty years ago, we wanted to bring much-needed competition into Australia’s skies, lower airfares, give consumers choice, to create thousands of jobs and put a smile on people’s face.
“Inspired that vision, we created Virgin Blue, which turned into Virgin Australia, and together we created an airline that embodied the Virgin brand – an incredible team focused on innovation and customer experience to make people’s lives better.
“Well, I know only too well how devastating the news will be to you all. In most countries, federal governments have stepped in, in this unprecedented crisis for aviation, to help their airlines. Sadly, that has not happened in Australia. This is not the end for Virgin Australia and its unique culture.
“Never one to give up, I want to assure all of you, and our competitor, that we are determined to see Virgin Australia back up and running soon.
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“We will work with Virgin Australia’s administrators and management team, investors and government to make this happen and create a stronger business ready to provide even more value to customers, competition to the market, stimulus to the economy and as many jobs as possible to our wonderful people.
“Virgin Australia has captured the hearts of all Australians, that is down to all of you, past and present, who made it the best airline to fly in Australia. This is not the end for Virgin Australia, but I believe and hope a new beginning. We’ll work day and night to turn this into a reality.”
The company’s current shareholders include Singapore Airlines, China’s HNA Group and Nanshan Group, Etihad and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which together hold 90 per cent of the company.
Early on Tuesday morning, the business’ administrator, Deloitte, confirmed it has been in discussions with a number of investors.