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Strike threat hurting Virgin ticket sales, says Branson

written by Adam Thorn | December 11, 2023

Sir Richard Branson has warned Virgin Australia staff that customers aren’t booking with the airline because they’re worried about potential strike action.

In a video obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the British entrepreneur urged unions and management to quietly conclude a deal because the company “should not be arguing publicly”.

Virgin Australia cabin crew earlier this month voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action if their demands for pay and conditions aren’t met.

On Friday, the TWU hinted strike action could take place over Christmas, despite also claiming progress is being made. Talks are set to continue later this week.


“Even right now people are not booking Virgin Australia because they’re worried about what might happen,” Branson said in the footage obtained by the newspaper.

“I just would urge both sides just quietly sit down in a room, get it sorted, think about all your other employees.

“Managers have to manage for the long term to keep Virgin Australia going in five years, 10 years, 20 years.

“Unions have to try to get the headline numbers in the short term.

“If one section of Virgin Australia goes too far, that means every other section’s going to have to go too far, and very quickly the same thing that happened to Ansett could happen to Virgin Australia.”

The airline has previously told Australian Aviation that it has put a “substantial offer on the table” which provides “real relief” for cost of living pressures on its employees.

Branson, meanwhile, has been in the country after launching his latest cruise ship, Resilient Lady, in Sydney.

The intervention came after he separately told journalists this week that he still loves Virgin Australia “dearly” after he helped guide the airline out of administration in 2020.

Speaking to The Australian, the British entrepreneur insisted he is “just as involved” as he used to be and would continue to “fight to look after the company”.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Virgin Australia staff since I’ve been down here and spent time with Jayne [Hrdlicka, the CEO], and I’m still the biggest private shareholder,” he said.

Virgin Australia entered administration in 2020 after years of trying to shift itself from a low-cost carrier to a full-service offering capable of taking on Qantas.

Branson, then only a 10 per cent shareholder, won plaudits for releasing a video talking directly to staff within hours of the collapse being confirmed.

The airline was eventually purchased by private equity firm Bain, but Branson was later able to acquire a 5 per stake and keep the Virgin branding on the aircraft.

So far, the buyout has been successful, with the business recently revealing a full-year profit of $129 million – a remarkable turnaround given it collapsed owing more than $7 billion.

“We’re back to expanding again and we’re looking at one or two exciting new ventures and, having a few months ago gone to space with Virgin Galactic, now I’m down here with the Virgin Voyages,” said Branson.

“Virgin is certainly not as financially strong as it was, but pretty well nobody is as strong as they were before Covid and our team is still creating wonderful, wonderful new ventures.”

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Comments (2)

  • Richard Daniell


    Isn’t this the whole point of the strike action to bring pressure on the company to get them to the negotiation table.

    Branson is just playing politics, he’s the only private shareholder in the airline, outside of Bain and the QLD government.

    Of course he’s going to say that.

    Virgin asked staff to get on board and help them get back to profit, funny that when they get there the company stops listening and says it can’t afford a pay rise – if they can’t afford it in this inflated market, then they are doomed.

    Profits are up industry wide, Bain has drained the company of all its cash, returning all of there investment already, made them take out massive loans to pay itself back.

    You can see right there what Bain think of the workers – they are only interested in money money money.

    Once they float and they get there fat profit, good riddens to Bain. They’ve done absolutely zero for Virgins future.

    • Richard that’s what private equity organizations are about, money and maybe more money too! I agree that Bain should exit asap as it is running a piggy bank not an airline but frankly at the moment with the all power hungry Fed. Govt. supported T.W.U. muscling the workforce into industrial action specifically targeted at this festive season which could clearly disadvantage thousands of intending travelers what chance is there of finding a suitable primary investor or buyer for the enterprise. I think it safe to say that Bain has not attracted a single major equity partner so far because we would have heard about it by now. Everyone is suffering from “cost of living problems” but seriously is that VOZ’s fault? no, so get the TWU to bash the ears of Govt. – they have a key to their front door. As for the loyal staffers may I suggest you all take time out to rethink your position and if in the big picture of things/situations something doesn’t suit that section or group come up with a reasonable workable alternative and go talk to your line manager! remembering of course that the companies published profit of AU$129M although good to see, when considering the investment needed to support the operation, that is only petty cash hardly enough to attract a buyer!

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