Rumours have continued to swirl that Virgin Australia will follow rival Qantas’ lead and stand down over 1000 employees as a result of ongoing lockdowns and border closures across the country.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported late on Wednesday that several sources close to Virgin Australia believed the airline could make an announcement as soon as Thursday that would see more than 1,000 workers temporarily stood down from their role.
Shortly after, a report by The Daily Telegraph suggested that staff at Virgin are yet to be notified of any imminent changes to current working conditions.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline said the company was “consulting with unions to manage the reduced demand in flying and the available hours of work over the next 1-2 months”.
It comes just days after Qantas announced it would also temporarily stand down 2,500 workers across the airline and its budget subsidiary Jetstar, after it saw its capacity reduce from almost 100 per cent in May to just 40 per cent in July.
Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the federal government’s new Retaining Domestic Airline Capability scheme, which would see airline staff outside of COVID lockdown hotspots gain access to JobKeeper-style payments of $750 per week.
Previously, stood-down workers in aviation could only gain access to financial support if they live in areas that are locked down, through the government’s general COVID-19 Disaster Payment scheme.
The new aviation COVID aid sparked widespread confusion when it was first announced on Monday, as early reports suggested the payments were only on offer to pilots and cabin crew, and would only be offered to 50 per cent of all stood-down staff members.
Speaking exclusively with Australian Aviation, a Qantas spokesperson confirmed that all 2,500 staff members that were stood down on Tuesday, including airport workers, would be eligible for relief payments, either under the government’s lockdown disaster payment scheme or through the newly-introduced aviation support payments.
Later, a spokesperson for the Deputy Prime Minister’s office also confirmed that “any frontline staff employed by an airline are eligible” for the aviation-specific support program, which does include all airport or ground workers employed by an airline, however, subcontractors are not eligible.
The looming stand-downs come after Virgin was on the up, recently snatching back 28 per cent of the domestic market share, and sending Qantas’ share below 70 per cent.
Off the back of Virgin’s capacity boost, the airline announced in May that it would welcome more than 400 new staff members to its ranks, from pilots, cabin crew and ground services roles.
The airline made the announcement alongside revealing plans to launch five new services and significantly increase frequency across its network, including by 30 per cent on the ‘Golden Triangle’.
Virgin said at that time it would introduce five new services to allow for greater connection from capital cities to major regional destinations: Adelaide-Cairns, Perth-Cairns, Sydney-Townsville, Melbourne-Townsville and Sydney- Darwin.
It said it would also increase flight frequencies to key Queensland destinations, including Brisbane, the Whitsunday Coast, Hamilton Island, Cairns, Townsville, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast by up to 40 per cent.
Finally, services on the so-called Golden Triangle between Sydney-Brisbane-Melbourne were to increase by 30 per cent to support business travel, with an average of 100 flights every day by October.
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