Virgin collapse could further hurt ACT’s economic recovery prospects

Dominic Giannini 22 April 2020 15
Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia has entered voluntary administration which could have serious ramifications for Australia’s domestic aviation industry. Photo: File.

The possible departure of Virgin Australia from Australia’s aviation market would be a blow to the ACT’s tourism sector and the recovery pathway to a post-pandemic economy, according to Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Mr Barr said the loss of Virgin and its low-cost subsidiary Tiger Air would damage Canberra’s viability as an affordable travel destination from major state hubs.

Tiger Air is the only low-budget airline servicing Canberra, and without it and Virgin offering competition to Qantas, the ACT would lose access to large chunks of Australia’s lucrative tourism market unless another carrier picked up the dropped services, he said.

The ACT’s tourism market brings in more than $2.5 billion a year from more than six million tourists.

Domestic tourists in the ACT make up 90 per cent of travellers coming to the territory, and Virgin and Tiger shared 42 per cent of the market in Canberra before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.

“A second viable airline in Australia is fundamental to the ongoing strength of both the ACT’s tourism industry and tourism in Australia,” Mr Barr said.

“The Canberra-Melbourne and Canberra-Brisbane routes were among Tiger Air’s most successful routes and a very significant part of driving domestic tourism for us.

“[Virgin] had very extensive coverage and they were an airline we were talking to about Trans-Tasman services.”

While international travel has been called off for the foreseeable future, Mr Barr said the ACT would be in a better position if the spread of COVID-19 continues to be contained and National Cabinet moves to open the country up to domestic travellers.

If the same number of internationally bound Australians travelled domestically instead, travel demand in the territory would increase five to 10 times and it will be the domestic travellers the ACT will look towards to help our economic recovery when lockdown restrictions are eased, Mr Barr said.

“Two viable domestic airlines would be critical for domestic tourism in Australia as for the next little period it is only going to be domestic tourism,” he said.

Although the ACT Government is not in any position to bail out the airline, Mr Barr said there were promising signs that the airline would get assistance. The NSW and Queensland governments both put forward packages contingent on the company having its headquarters in their states’ capital city.

“Unfortunately, it is just a little bit beyond the balance sheet of the second smallest government in Australia to be able to bail out Virgin,” he said.

“I was interested in what was essentially the State of Origin feud we have not been able to have this year between NSW and Queensland who went to war, metaphorically, over Virgin.

“It was great to see the passion between those two states for the airline’s future, so there is optimism in that regard and one would hope out of this process there is a possible restructure that would see a viable second airline.”

The Federal Government has ruled out a bailout, preferring a market-led solution. Up to 10 suitors are circling the company, including some already on its share register.

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15 Responses to Virgin collapse could further hurt ACT’s economic recovery prospects
Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:06 pm 23 Apr 20

“The ACT government should invest in starting up a small airline company based in Canberra,

Hey, great idea and a good name for it would be “Rhodium Airline Solutions”.

Gary Fynmore Gary Fynmore 1:12 pm 23 Apr 20

Perhaps the Murray's bus network could be expanded and include a Kirrabilly to Canberra route. The PM could hop a Canberra Cab from the taxi rank at Jolimont to Parliament House 🙄😂

David Conway David Conway 1:02 am 23 Apr 20

Buy government should buy the air line at a cheep price now. Sell it later .. I.e 6 mths time for a profit. Don’t give those billionaires money.

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:26 pm 22 Apr 20

If I go to Sydney there's the train or bus. They are my preference.

Nick Anderson Nick Anderson 11:06 pm 22 Apr 20

“damage Canberra’s viability as an ‘affordable’ travel destination”

I’m sorry but have you seen Canberra airfares and hotel prices before the pandemic? Nearly highway robbery. The landing fees is cited as the reason why Jetstar doesn’t fly here

    Nick Anderson Nick Anderson 11:21 pm 22 Apr 20

    Plus I seriously doubt that Qantas would allow Jetstar to cannibalise on existing qantas mainline routes.

    Whatever happens to Virgin, the one certainty we have is Tigerair closing down and liquidating their remaining assets. Virgin should’ve never bought Tigerair.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 9:15 pm 22 Apr 20

“Domestic tourists in the ACT make up 90 per cent of travellers coming to the territory..”

If some of the marketing is anything to go by, a reasonable chunk of the remaining 10 per cent made up by international tourists has, at least in part, been real estate tourism – the loss of that business will have an economic impact well out of proportion to the lost tourist numbers.

Sally Tregellas Wodzinska Sally Tregellas Wodzinska 6:14 pm 22 Apr 20

We may be back to 20years ago. Maybe Air New Zealand or Singapore Airlines could take their place.

Mark Goodman Mark Goodman 3:43 pm 22 Apr 20

The ACT government should invest in starting up a small airline company based in Canberra, could be funded via public/private equity. More regional airlines would be good for Australia.

    Neil Chandler Neil Chandler 5:32 pm 22 Apr 20

    Mark Goodman as much as it would be great to see better connectivity to the capital, running airlines is a very quick way to lose a whole lot of money, especially regional ones that cant benefit from economies of scale... maybe if they nationalised the carcass of virgin, they could base it out of Canberra and turn the capital city into a true hub? Just as unlikely, but we can dream!

    Mark Goodman Mark Goodman 5:42 pm 22 Apr 20

    Neil Chandler yep mine was a dream. Could only work if they could pick up planes at a big discount. It would still be a huge ask to compete with the economies of scale.

    Nick Anderson Nick Anderson 11:16 pm 22 Apr 20

    Fun Fact: we actually did have a regional airline based in Canberra once upon a time. Brindabella airlines had routes from Canberra to Albury and Newcastle. Sadly they went out of business in 2013

Terry Cooper Terry Cooper 3:39 pm 22 Apr 20

at this point it’s just voluntary administration, not a wind up. Chill people.

Matt Frawley Matt Frawley 3:28 pm 22 Apr 20

Fast train 🤔

    Leo Menssen Leo Menssen 3:33 pm 22 Apr 20

    Fast train is just a dream Government knows it would be another Virgin Australia.

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