Securing a seat on a plane could be more difficult and expensive if airlines lose their pool of staff on stand-by when the JobKeeper subsidy ends, a Senate committee has been told.
Roughly half of Virgin Australia’s 6000-strong workforce is currently stood down and able to respond to upticks in demand due to border changes, the committee heard on Friday.
Having that level of workforce flexibility has been possible thanks to the government subsidy, and chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said it would be financially “devastating” for the airline to carry the burden alone.
Using Thursday’s announcement of COVID-19 border restrictions easing between Greater Sydney and Queensland, Ms Hrdlicka said the airline was able to respond quickly because of the available pool of staff.
“We’ve got people ready to go,” she said.
“If we did not have those people stood down and ready to go then it would take us weeks to get people identified to come back in.”
She said further job cuts were a risk if JobKeeper was not extended or replaced with some form of support.
“”You can imagine that it will be devastating because we’ve got 3000 highly skilled workers who are currently stood down,” she said.
The patchwork of rules that dictate when borders open and shut was also highlighted as making airline operations particularly difficult.
Ms Hrdlicka said everybody would benefit from a national framework that gave certainty of when borders would close and why.
The Senate committee examining the future of Australia’s aviation sector is holding a public hearing in Brisbane on Friday.