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Flight Centre CEO backs Hrdlicka over border views

written by Adam Thorn | May 18, 2021

Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner (Flight Centre)

Flight Centre’s chief executive has become the most high-profile figure to back Virgin’s CEO after she suggested a vaccinated Australia should open its borders, even if that results in some deaths.

Graham Turner said Jayne Hrdlicka’s words “don’t sound callous to me” and argued her comments were “quite well said”.

Hrdlicka’s earlier intervention was the most significant yet from a senior industry executive advocating that the country will have to accept some illness from COVID when borders open, with vaccines unlikely to prove 100 per cent effective.

However, Turner strongly backed her on Tuesday afternoon, despite recent criticism from both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The Australian reported he said people would die from COVID-19 in Australia “just like 2,000 die from the flu each year, and a myriad of other causes”.


“People will die [from COVID], people will just have to accept that,” Turner said. “The point is we can’t stay shut forever. But it’s a question of when do we open, and what are the conditions for opening?

“COVID-19 is still going to exist, which is why the vaccination program is the absolute key. It means people won’t die.”

Hrdlicka seemed to inadvertently start a national conversation on Monday when she was reported to have said opening the country’s borders would mean “some people may die, but it will be way smaller than with the flu”.

It came as she was calling for Australia to open sooner than the current target of mid-2022. Significantly, she made clear she was referring to a situation where the country was largely protected via vaccinations.

“We’re forgetting the fact that we’ve learnt how to live with lots of viruses and challenges over the years and we’ve got to learn how to live with this,” she said.

“COVID will be part of the community, we will become sick with COVID and it won’t put us in hospital, and it won’t put people into dire straits because we’ll have a vaccine.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison branded the Virgin CEO “insensitive”, arguing he was “not going to take risks with Australians’ lives” and would maintain a regime “that has so far avoided the loss of 30,000 lives”.

PM Morrison said, “I would encourage people to know 910 Australians lost their lives. Every single one of those lives was a terrible tragedy, and it doesn’t matter how old they were.”

Later on Tuesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also appeared to also criticise Hrdlicka’s views by arguing that “no death is acceptable” when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID.

“We’ve worked hard in New South Wales to protect life, to keep community safety and that’s what we will do,” Premier Berejiklian said.

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Comments (8)

  • Well of course the Flight Centre CEO would back Hrdlicka…..business first, well-being of us all, second.!
    Hardlickas words were very poor choice indeed, perhaps a bit callous, but thats what she is, a hard headed business person. Wonder how she, or Graham Turners would feel if ”people who have to die” are from their family or friends.

  • Mitchell


    One wouldn’t know Turner’s a multi-millionaire, by looking at him.
    He just wants Virgin to have customer loads’, with punters’ booking on them, through his owned Flight Centres’.
    It’s all about the ‘bottom line’, isn’t it Skroo?

  • Greg Soper


    Hope these pair will be happy to be support staff on flights back from india..

    • Ted


      Good one, Greg!
      But QANTAS wouldn’t want either on board their aircraft, in any way, shape or form.

  • Martin


    Graham Turner from Flight Centre is only worried about his nett profit margin, not about the safety and well being of ALL Australians.

  • Td


    Maybe it’s time ALL the CEOs , including the two above, who want to line their pockets or big note themselves (to their shareholders or foreign owners) for their next gigs to visit India. They obviously have never smelt death or faced their maker from causes outside of their control.
    One thing is for sure and that is they won’t help the needy who succumb to the virus or the lockdown losses or the health department s in various states. Their specialty is to shift paper out of the IN tray and quack orders or fire people or do whatever they need to make money. In Virgins case they have already missed opportunities in bubble flying to cross borders but then they only want to fly domestically hoping to pick up bubble tourists brought in largely by Qantas.
    Agreed lots of people die from the flu, car accidents and other personal misfortunes but they don’t have to die from other nations misfortunes with Covid.
    Yes the borders will open in good time when the appropriate professionals with gross error checking recommend it. It’s called look after your Aussie mates with duty of care!

  • Baz Bruce


    Agree completely with this view, borders will need to open. To think remaining isolated forever is a viable means of dealing with COVID is naive. The bigger issue here is the intolerance to an objectional view of the current situation. It’s a brave move for Jayne Hrdlicka to stand up express her views, more in the industry should do the same!
    Such a pity the federal and state government responses are so defensive and fail to see beyond the rabbit hole they stuck in.
    No one is suggesting open boarders without checks and vaccinations etc. however extending travel bubbles to select countries with vaccination requirements and self isolation etc. are strategies that need to be openly debated and discussed without criticism and binary politics.

  • Ben


    Current vaccination rate we don’t get everyone vaccinated until 2023! So unless we find a turbo button somewhere, mid-22 is a valid estimate!

    Maybe these CEO’s should be lobbying for support for Aussies to holiday AT HOME!? People still want to head to Bali and Phuket instead of Broome and Cairns. Because “it’s expensive”… which means either the operators in these locations were profiteering off the international visitors to these locations and/or Aussies are tight a****s. Probably a little of both. Surely it would be better if the dollars that would have been spent on international visitors are diverted to subsidising/promoting visiting our own back yard instead of railing to get borders open to visit the usual cheap ( and dare I say ‘bogan’) hotspots.

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