Rex deputy chairman John Sharp has revealed lockdowns and border closures have shut down 80 per cent of the airline’s business.
In an interview with US news channel CNBC, Sharp also became the first major Australian airline chief to publicly call for the government to provide more assistance.
“If we don’t do something for airlines, there won’t be too many left at the end of this,” Sharp said.
It comes as speculation increases that aviation businesses will soon be forced to enact mass stand-downs of staff, with the news NSW’s lockdown is likely to continue for weeks. The state today recorded 89 new locally acquired cases, down slightly from 112 on Monday.
“It’s hit us really hard,” said Sharp on Tuesday. “It’s devastating to see the impact. It’s really knocked out the vast majority of our business.
“We’ll lose revenue and we’ll have people we’ll have to pay people who we can’t generate income from. We’re back to where we were at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
“Unless government are prepared to assist business, a lot of business will close. If this NSW lockdown continues for any length of time, it’s been suggested it could be for up to six weeks, government assistance will be needed.
“Governments have to start floating people’s boats again. If governments want to keep an industry alive, they’re going to have to help us. No airline can keep paying people when you don’t generate the revenue to keep employing them.”
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine told Australian Aviation recently that businesses had so far kept workers active but the situation would “inevitably” change if restrictions rumbled on.
“People are currently working on ordinary hours,” said Kaine. “But for many in aviation, that itself is hard because they’re not getting the overtime and overnight allowances that they’ve become accustomed to.
“Clearly, casuals and part-timers will be used as a minimum, so they’re already suffering.
“But in terms of stand down, they haven’t been triggered yet. We had some pre-meetings with companies, which we are working with to attempt to avoid that.
“But it’s going to be an inevitability, particularly if the New South Wales situation doesn’t improve.”
Kaine said there are already calls in a couple of companies for staff to take unpaid leave.
“That means workers are going to be left to the vagaries of any potential social security system with no dedicated aviation payment,” he added.
Australian Aviation reported how nearly 373 flights arriving or departing from Sydney Airport on 30 June were cancelled or withdrawn from service as domestic aviation in Australia ground to a near halt.
The last time states and territories locked out NSW at Christmas due to the Northern Beaches cluster, it cost Qantas alone $400 million.