Coronavirus: Virgin Australia to close NZ bases, sends 8000 workers on forced leave

The airline is cutting 90 percent of its domestic flights.
The airline is cutting 90 percent of its domestic flights. Photo credit: Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia has announced it is cutting 90 percent of its domestic flights and is putting 8000 staff members on forced leave amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, the airline also said it was looking to close its New Zealand crew bases, as well as its Tigerair Australia pilot base in Melbourne.

Virgin Australia confirmed to Newshub approximately 550 New Zealand-based staff will be impacted, but the airline is currently exploring redeployment options.

"As a matter of priority, and to streamline and safeguard the [company's] domestic and short-haul international businesses through COVID-19, the company will commence consultation on a proposal to close its New Zealand cabin crew and pilot base and its Tigerair Australia Melbourne pilot base," the airline said in a statement.

The new domestic cutbacks will be in place from March 27 to June 14. They're being made on top of the airline stopping all of its international flights until mid-June.

The airline says around 80 percent of its total international workforce will be temporarily stood down.

"We are now facing what will be the biggest grounding of aircraft in this country's history," said Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah.

"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.

"We plan to return Tigerair Australia and Virgin Australia to the skies as soon as its 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."

Virgin Australia confirmed to Newshub approximately 550 New Zealand-based staff will impacted but the airline is currently exploring redeployment options.

The airline says customers who have travel booked with it between now and June 30 should comtact it to request a travel credit online or get "more information about their options".

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