Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah has hailed Bain as “a really good owner” and said the relationship between the investors and the existing management team is like “a good marriage”.
In an exclusive interview on the Australian Aviation Podcast, which you can listen to above, Scurrah argued many of the changes instigated by the private equity company would have happened anyway.
“No matter who our new owner was, even if we hadn’t have gone into administration, a lot of the decisions we’re having to make are the right business decisions moving forward, given what we think the market is going to be like,” said Scurrah.
The chief executive’s staunch defence of Bain comes shortly after eight unions, including the TWU and AFAP, signed a joint statement in which they launched a wide-ranging attack on the airline’s new owners. It came as the two sides are attempting to negotiate new enterprise agreements underpinning terms and conditions, which have expired.
Scurrah, though, was full of praise for the impact Bain has had since they were all-but confirmed as the new custodians of the business in May.
“The fact that Bain has come in is something that’s incredibly welcome to us, because the alternative was far worse,” Scurrah said. “They’ve got a really good track record in terms of funding the businesses adequately, and making sure there is a really strong focus on process improvement and technology, and customer-facing investment.
“They are a really good owner from that perspective. It’s going really well. They’re very fact-based, data-driven organisation, as you’d expect from a private equity company, but they take feedback on board, and they listen.
“We’ve co-created, I think, what the airline will look like in the future, based on our internal knowledge and their external expertise. And I think that’s a really good marriage.”
You can listen to the full interview within this article, at the top of the page, or on your favourite podcast provider by clicking the link at the bottom.
As part of a restructure to prepare the company for a post-COVID-19 world, Virgin announced in August it would cut 3,000 jobs and axe the Tigerair brand.
However, it also said it wouldn’t go down the route of being a stripped-down, low-cost carrier and would continue to fly international routes and offer domestic lounges and business-class flying.
The decision was initially welcomed by the TWU, however recently relations between Bain and the unions appears to have broken down.
An open letter sent in September by eight union made a series of claims, including that Virgin are using the new enterprise agreements to “drive down conditions”, that there was a “lack of knowledge” of the business’ traditional brand and culture, and even hints they believe a lack of airplanes available to fly suggests more job cuts are coming.
The business responded by arguing the changes were necessary to “shape a future for our airline that is sustainable for the long term and will mean we can save more jobs”.