Virgin considers axing Tigerair pilots

Virgin Australia has confirmed it is seeking a federal government bailout amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Virgin Australia has confirmed it is seeking a federal government bailout amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The nation's second-largest airline says it is exploring all options during the coronavirus pandemic, including making pilots redundant.

Virgin Australia is contemplating closing its subsidiary Tigerair's Melbourne base and is discussing the pilots' future with their union.

The Australian Federation of Air Pilots said on Tuesday all 220 Tigerair pilots would be made redundant by the end of the week.

However, Virgin says it's still working through the crisis, which is having a significant financial impact.

"Outcomes of the review include plans to consolidate our domestic and short-haul international pilot workforce and the proposed closure of Tigerair Australia's Melbourne pilot base," a Virgin Australian spokesman told AAP.

"Tigerair Australia pilots are continuing to be paid as normal while we consult with union representatives on this proposal."

The carrier, the second biggest after Qantas, wants a rescue package from the federal government of up to $1.4 billion.

Virgin Australia told the share market it is seeking the funds from what it anticipates would be support for the wider industry.

It could involve the government becoming a part-owner.

Qantas has told the government it expects a $4.2 billion loan if Virgin Australia is bailed out, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declined to comment on any specifics, saying: "We support strongly the aviation industry.

"I've been in close contact with leaders of the business community including the aviation sector's (Virgin boss) Paul Scurrah and (Qantas chief) Alan Joyce," he told ABC radio.

"But we have already illustrated our commitment to having a viable, sustainable aviation sector, with more than $700 million in fees being waived."

Mr Frydenberg said the transport of freight and people was important to the economy.

"We'll continue that dialogue with key stakeholders," he said.

The airline recently cut its workforce by 80 per cent and its capacity by 90 per cent.

Global credit ratings agency Fitch on Monday put Virgin Australia on rating watch negative, citing a drop in demand in the aviation market from the coronavirus.

Australian Associated Press