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Virgin Australia stands down 8,000, cuts domestic flights

A Virgin Australia plane takes off at Sydney Airport in Sydney on March 19, 2020. - Australia's biggest airline Qantas said it would halt all international flights and suspend 20,000 staff in response to the coronavirus pandemic, days after the island nation's other main carrier Virgin shut its overseas routes. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Virgin Australia has stood down nearly its entire workforce. Image: Getty

Virgin Australia (VAH.AX) will temporarily stand down 80 per cent of its workforce and ground 90 per cent of its domestic flights.

That’s effectively 125 aircraft grounded, with the company announcing last week it would suspend all international services.

The remaining domestic flights will be used to transport essential services and freight, while all of Tigerair Australia will be immediately suspended.

The 8,000 staff will be temporarily stood down until at least the end of May, the beleaguered airline announced in a statement to the ASX ahead of the market’s open on Wednesday.

Staff will be able to draw down their leave, however leave without pay will also be “inevitable”, Virgin Australia said, adding that it’s talking to around 25 other companies at ways to keep its staff employed in some form.

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The company said today’s decision reflects states’ decisions to close borders.

“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 government’s latest travel advice,” Virgin Australia CEO and managing director Paul Scurrah said.

“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 all our domestic and international flying until at least the middle of June.”

Qantas last week announced it would temporarily stand down around 20,000 workers as it battles the same challenges as its rival. Qantas’ domestic flights have been reduced by 60 per cent, while it has also temporarily suspended all international flights.

More to come.

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