Transcript - Virgin Australia Press Conference Brisbane

JAYNE HRDLICKA

Thank you, Lisa. And it is really an exciting day today. Before we get started, I do want to thank everybody who’s here from the Virgin Australia family. It is so exciting to see so many of you coming back into the fold. There are new members of the team as well, so welcome to the family. It’s great to have everybody here today and it is exciting news.

Now, I’d also like to welcome our Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack. It’s really nice to have you here and it’s a real treat for us that you’ve taken so much time out of your busy schedule. Michael’s a really important part of our ecosystem as the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Development, so thank you.

And it’s also great to have our partners here, [indistinct] thank you so much. You and your team are a really important part of our one team approach at Virgin Australia, so thank you for being here.

Now the news is fantastic. The last time Michael and I were together was in Sydney in a hangar talking about half-price sale fares for Australia. And we were really hopeful that that was going to be a juncture that got Australians out from underneath the doona and back to travelling across our great country. And it worked. We have very few of those half-price sale fares left. One month after we launched those fares, we made an announcement of 10 new aircraft coming into the fleet. Two of those aircraft are actually here today and we’re really excited. That’s the first step in continuing to grow our fleet and support Australia as Australia’s most loved airline.

Now, along with the announcement of the 10 aircraft came 380 new cabin crew – many of you are here today. It also comes with another 250 jobs, which Lisa mentioned, which will be a combination of pilots, ground handling crew and some IT and tech support that is necessary to continue to support the growth and development of Virgin Australia.

We are principally a domestic airline and it’s very exciting today to announce five new services – Adelaide and Perth to Cairns; Sydney to Darwin; and Melbourne and Sydney to Townsville. That’s five new services, which is fantastic, but we’re also growing frequencies and markets we already serve. And that includes a significant increase in flights into Queensland, so there is a 30 per cent increase in flights into Queensland, which includes the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, it includes Townsville, Hamilton Island, Whitsundays and Cairns. It’s very exciting for Queensland. It also includes 50 new services per week into Tasmania to both Launceston and Hobart. So today a great news story for tourism in both Tasmania and across Queensland.

It also means we’re increasing our services between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane by an additional 40 per cent and we’re really excited about what that means in enabling people to visit family and friends and for businesses to really get back and connected to customers and to each other. So it’s very, very exciting and we’re really delighted to be able to share that with you today.

Now, before I hand over to Michael, I just want to make a few comments about the extraordinary commentary this week about my comments at QT on Monday about COVID and international borders. And I very much understand that my words taken in isolation may have hurt some people, and if I had my time again, I would use different words to make the same point. And I’m just delighted that we can today say very loudly and proudly that we are a domestic airline that is absolutely committed to keeping the community safe and that the most vulnerable in Australia and people who generally want to be vaccinated should have the opportunity to do that before international borders open. That’s where we started the conversation on Monday and that’s been part of our dialogue in Australia for a very long time.

So, we’re very excited today. This is all about domestic and it’s all about new services and please join me in welcoming our Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, thank you so much, Jayne, and I acknowledge Gert as well doing a wonderful job at this gateway to the world, the gateway to Brisbane, the gateway to Queensland. And the gateway to success is found here. You all know what it looks like. You’ve handed them out. You’re proud of the colours and well you should be. And today we talk about new routes. We talk about new planes. We talk about new opportunities. But we also talk about people – more people, more often. And the looks on the faces of the staff, some of whom have been redeployed, some of whom are here for their very first training exercise, some of whom are old hands, friendly hands, friendly faces at this great Australian company. Virgin Australia on the flight path to success.

Who would have thought at this time 12 or so months ago that we would all be here now smiling, happy, eagerly looking towards the future – but we are because of people right here in this hangar right beside me, smiling, happy faces. Perhaps 12 months ago not the case. Yes, the Government certainly stepped into support. Taxpayers of Australia certainly stumped up to support on a sector-wide basis the aviation industry hit first, hit hardest when COVID-19 came to our shore. It was a worrying time. Yes, it was a troubling time. It was a challenging time, but we responded as a Government, as a nation and as crew in this fabulous airline.

So, I say as the Deputy Prime Minister, as the Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and thank you on behalf of a grateful nation for doing what you’ve done, for having the belief. Having the belief in the company, having the belief in the right of Australians to be able to travel domestically, to be able to travel wherever they want to go, to be able to make sure that that holiday is going to be at home, is going to be a part of their future. And those half-price tickets have been snapped up, as well they should. Indeed, many Australians have discovered the wonderful delights of destinations they never thought possible. Well, they’ll go again and again and again. And we will continue to address the situation as it unfolds. We’ll continue to provide the necessary support.

But I do want to say – my emphasis today, the take-home message that I want you to have today – is thank you to each and every one of you. To Jayne and her wonderful leadership team and her wonderful leadership. It has carried this airline, transferring planes, transferring routes, transferring flights to new owners on the flight path to success. Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations and thank you.

SPEAKER

Well, thank you, Deputy Prime Minister. They were truly uplifting words. A lot of the employees here today but more broadly across the Virgin Australia network have worked incredibly hard, and for those in particular who were stood down and have recently come back and those new ones who are joining us, I’ve never seen such a motivated and hardworking group of individuals. We are all here as one team wanting to make this a massive success.

Media contacts:

Caitlin Donaldson, 0428 389 880

Jock Rice-Ward, 0417 837 565