Aviation

“Some people may die”: Virgin Australia suffers PR nightmare following CEO’s controversial comments

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

Virgin Australia has been forced to defend the importance it places on the health and safety of passengers, following a controversial speech by the airline’s CEO.

Speaking at Queensland University of Technology’s Business Leaders’ Forum yesterday, Jayne Hrdlicka said the narrative needed to change around COVID-19 in Australia as the country continues to roll out its vaccine program, according to the uni’s media centre.

“We can’t keep (COVID) out forever,” she said.

“We’re all going to be sicker than we ever have been in the past because we’re not exposed to the viruses and challenges that the rest of the world is dealing with, so we need to get the borders open for our own health and for the economy (once vaccinated).

“It will make us sick, but won’t put us into hospital. Some people may die, but it will be way smaller than the flu.”

Hrdlicka’s controversial comments have sent social media into a frenzy, with the hashtag #boycottvirgin now trending on Twitter.

The social media storm even prompted Michael Rowland, co-host of the ABC’s News Breakfast program, to highlight the PR nightmare unfolding for Virgin.

The airline has since tried to smooth over Hrdlicka’s comments, issuing a statement saying that the safety of its guests has always been Virgin’s “number one priority” and that “nothing will change that”.

“We have worked in lock-step with state and federal governments to put the health and safety of Australians first, and we’ll keep doing that as we learn to live with COVID-19,” the statement read.

However, it appears to have stirred up even more criticism from people – some of them loyal customers – on Twitter.

Hrdlicka’s comments come after Virgin was forced to defer most short-haul international flights until at least December 2021.

The move was in reaction to the federal government’s expectation that Australia’s international border won’t reopen until mid-2022, according to its newly-released Budget papers.


Featured image source: Queensland University of Technology


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