Following the travel ban for all Australians, effective Wednesday, 25th of March, Virgin Australia has had to face a stark reality for the future of the airline.
CEO of Virgin Australia, Paul Scurrah, said that the travel and tourism industry in Australia is unlikely to survive the shutdown brought on by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions without government support. Without any other choice, the airline grounded 90% of its fleet and informed 8,000 of 10,000 employees that they would have to stand down for at least eight weeks.
The workers that have been sent home will be able to use any remaining leave entitlements they may have from their time working for the airline, however, anything apart from this will not be paid. In the meantime, Virgin Australia ensured the public that they will be working with more than 25 partner companies to ensure both short and long-term employment opportunities for any employees affected by the crisis.
While travel has not only ceased internationally, the severe new travel restrictions within Australia have left flights empty and airlines scrambling to preserve the future, with Scurrah stating that Virgin Australia has been left with a remaining $900 million cash balance that they are aiming to preserve for as long as possible.
It is not only Virgin Australia that has been put in an unprecedented crisis, however with more than 28,000 employees across Australian airlines, including pilots and cabin crew, having stood down, with no indication as to when they will be able to return to the workforce. While rival company Qantas secured a $1.05 billion debt to aid through the COVID-19 crisis, they have lobbied against Virgin Australia receiving any kind of government assistance themselves, due to the airline being owned by foreign interests. In response to this, Scurrah asked for sympathy from the Australian government not for the airline itself, but for the 8,000 employees forced to leave work without pay, and the economic strain that this will directly have on the Australian government as a result of the collapse of the airline.
The Australian COVID-19 response travel ban has suspended domestic flights from March 27 to June 14, and international flights from March 30 to June 14. These end dates are completely subject to the turnout of the global pandemic, however, and if the virus has not been controlled by that time, it is unlikely that these bans will be lifted.
The Australian travel industry is at an indefinite stand-still and, therefore, so are Australians.