25 Mar 2020

Virgin Australia looks to shut down NZ operations, 550 jobs on line

6:17 pm on 25 March 2020

Five hundred and fifty pilot and cabin crew jobs are on the line as Virgin Australia moves to shut down operations in this country in the face of Covid-19.

Virgin Australia plane at Sydney Airport.

Photo: AFP

It has been in talks with New Zealand unions today about the proposal.

The airline says it is a priority in order to safeguard its Australian operations, which it is also restructuring as it shuts down all international flights from 30 March.

"Redundancies are going to be inevitable," a spokesperson said.

Even if Virgin restarts trans-Tasman flights on 15 June as planned, it would only use pilots and crew based in Australia, she said.

"At the moment is just too costly to have the New Zealand bases as well," referring to the two bases in Auckland and Christchurch.

The Air Line Pilots Association has warned the country faces losing many highly trained pilots.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre
  • Virgin employs 200 pilots and 340 cabin crew, plus about 10 administration staff in this country.

    Just how many job losses there may be was uncertain, as redundancies and redeployments were still being worked through, the spokesperson said.

    "We have to take some pretty drastic action."

    Virgin has asked the New Zealand government if it could use any laid off staff in its public sector response to the pandemic, and to discuss what use the airline might make of the wage subsidy.

    It was also contacting local employers, including supermarket operator Foodstuffs, to see if they could help, though the lockdown was making it difficult, the spokesperson said.

    Virgin outsources its ground operations, which it won't need for the foreseeable future.

    It also said it wanted to consolidate its six employment agreements that it has with staff into one.

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