Virgin Australia ... job losses

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities


A Virgin Australia pilot has spoken of his devastation at losing the career he loves. And he warns travellers will be forced to fork out exorbitant amounts to fly if the airline isn’t bailed out.

A Virgin Australia pilot has spoken of his devastation after thousands of workers were stood down amid the COVID-19 crisis. The company stood down 8000 employees last month due to the tumultuous impact on the travel industry and severe reductions in international and domestic passenger flights. Daniel Vigilante, 32, from Melbourne, who has worked at the airline for seven years, said pilots were “devastated” and were now finding work in call centres, distribution centres and transport operations. “It has been devastating, pilots have a unique set of skills and they are not easily transferable to other industries,” Mr Vigilante said.

“To see my friends and colleagues having to go through this is heartbreaking but that will be an understatement if we don’t make it through this crisis. “It could take years for us to secure work as pilots.” Mr Vigilante, who is now working part time at a call centre in Melbourne’s CBD, said he and other pilots had been forced to quickly adapt to a new working environment. “We all did what we had to do to pay the bills, I know this is short-term and I’m grateful to be employed during this crisis.

“We have all worked so hard and put in years of training to be where we are.” Mr Vigilante called on the Federal Government to save the airline, saying passengers could be subjected to higher airfares in future without it.  “Not having Virgin in the airline industry will throw us back to a monopoly where airfares are substantially higher and going forward products and services would not nearly be as customer focused or competitive as they are today,” he said. Pilot Daniel Vigilante is calling on the Federal Government to save Virgin Australia.

UNSW lecturer in aviation Dr Tony Webber agreed saying if the airline were to collapse “capacity will fall and airfares will go up”. He said that would affect the tourism industry and ultimately “the economy as a whole“.

Monash University Professor and co-author of Up in the Air, Greg Bamber, said the government needed to act now to save the airline. “For every one person who works at the airline there’s 10 more in the supply chain of people who do the engineering, maintenance and other crucial areas that will be effected,” Prof Bamber said. “The government shut its borders when this crisis developed, so the government should take some major responsibility.”

Australian Federation of Air Pilots Vice-President, Captain George Kailis, who was also stood down without pay said without government financial assistance for Virgin, “we will end up with an almost monopoly situation and the days of affordable air travel will be over for quite some time.” Captain Kailis also said he was aware of the stress being experienced by highly-trained Australian commercial pilots who were out of work. “Pilots are just normal people whose passion is flying and safety. We have financial responsibilities just like everyone else,” he said.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the company employed more than 3000 people in Victoria including Tiger operations and more than 10,000 people nationally. “Of those, 41 per cent are skilled workers – pilots, engineers, operations controllers. “The specialist skills of these workers mean their skills are not easily transferable; it takes several years to train a pilot and have them approved to fly a specific type of aircraft.”

The Federal Government on Thursday said it would underwrite Virgin Australia flights with a minimal domestic schedule, to transport passengers and keep important freight corridors open during the pandemic. The minimal domestic schedule will enable Virgin Australia to reinstate some of its stood down flight, cabin and ground crew, along with other operational team members.

Pictures: George Salpigtidis

Period19 Apr 2020

Media coverage


Media coverage


  • Virgin Australia
  • pilots
  • government action
  • government assistance
  • government bail-outs
  • government support
  • Australian Federation of Air Pilots
  • Tiger
  • skills
  • ground crew
  • cabin crew