Aviation

Virgin to stand down 8,000 staff as domestic capacity cut by 90 per cent

Virgin Australia Group has extended its domestic capacity reduction from 50 per cent to 90 per cent, including the immediate suspension of Tigerair Australia’s domestic services.

With state border closures escalating across Australia, the Virgin has been forced to take further action that will see the suspension of most of its domestic flying from midnight Friday 27 March (AEDT) until 14 June 2020.

This is in addition to the group’s decision to temporarily suspend international flying from 30 March to 14 June 2020 and close all Virgin Australia-operated lounges across the network.

The group will continue to operate near-daily services to 17 Australian destinations for the purpose of transporting essential services, critical freight and logistics.

To find out more about Virgin’s revised domestic schedule, click here.

Virgin has also announced it will temporarily stand down approximately 80 per cent of the company’s 10,000-strong workforce until at least the end of May.

During the stand-down, staff will be able to access accrued leave entitlements, but leave without pay will be inevitable for many. The company said it is working with more than 25 partners to identify short- and long-term redeployment options.

As a matter of priority, and to streamline and safeguard its domestic and short-haul international businesses through COVID-19, Virgin will commence consultation on a proposal to close its New Zealand cabin crew and pilot base, as well as its Tigerair Melbourne pilot base.

Virgin Australia guests who are booked to travel between now and 30 June 2020 are encouraged to visit the airline’s customer care hub to request a travel credit online or obtain more information about their options.

Virgin Australia and Tigerair Australia guests who are booked to travel between now and 31 March 2020 are being provided flexibility to change their flight to a Virgin Australia service departing on or before 27 March, with change fees and fare difference waived.

All other Tigerair Australia guests will be able to obtain a Virgin Australia travel credit.

Virgin Australia boss Paul Scurrah

Virgin Australia CEO and managing director Paul Scurrah said: “There has never been a travel environment in Australia as restricted as the one we see today, and the extraordinary steps we’ve taken have been in response to the federal and state governments’ latest travel advice.

“We are now facing what will be the biggest grounding of aircraft in this country’s history. From the end of this week, we will begin repositioning and grounding more than 125 aircraft in our fleet, suspending almost all our domestic and international flying until at least the middle of June.

“I know our people have been working tirelessly to help guests get home ahead of the various state travel restrictions and their efforts should be applauded as they adapt to a rapidly-changing environment.

“We plan to return Tigerair Australia and Virgin Australia to the skies as soon as it’s viable to do so; however, I am mindful that how we operate today may look different when we get to the other side of this crisis.

“My focus has been on guiding this company through the crisis, and at the same time ensure the business is set on a sustainable path when the recovery eventually comes.

“I am only too aware of how much our people are hurting at the moment and these very tough decisions have weighed heavily on me and my leadership team.

“We are talking to our teams and we are working hard to do what we can to protect jobs and extend payments for as long as possible.”

These latest changes at Virgin come after Scurrah wrote to the competition watchdog calling for an investigation into comments made by rival and Qantas boss Alan Joyce about the possibility of extra assistance for the Richard Branson-backed airline beyond that of other carriers to outlast the COVID-19 crisis.

An ACCC spokesperson confirmed to The Nibbler’s sister publication, Travel Weekly, it had received the letter from Scurrah “and will be looking at the issues raised”.

In more positive news, Virgin Australia is gifting status credits to its current silver, gold and platinum Velocity Frequent Flyer members so they don’t lose their standing amidst the global COVID-19 crisis.

“We are aware that in the current environment with travel restrictions and reduced flights, it may be challenging for our members to maintain their Velocity status,” the airline said in a statement.

Applicable Velocity members will receive three instalments of status credits over the next three months, with the first lot landing in their accounts in the first week of April.

Status level

April

May

June

Total

Platinum

70

70

70

210

Gold

35

35

35

105

Silver

20

20

20

60

Virgin reiterated there are still lots of other ways members can earn Velocity points, including through one of its partner credit cards, shopping with FlyBuys or ridesharing with Ola.

Guests flying domestically will continue to earn points and status credits as usual with their flights.

Featured image credit: iStock/peterfz30

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