Virgin Australia is commencing consultation with unions and employees to require COVID-19 vaccination for all team members.
The airline said in a statement that the consultation process will commence shortly with relevant unions, employees and safety committees before it decides a final policy later this month.
Virgin is currently proposing that all frontline team members be vaccinated by 15 November 2021, and all office-based team members by 31 March 2022. The airline said those with medical issues that can be substantiated will be managed on a case-by-case basis.
Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka (pictured above) said recent events have demonstrated that it only takes one person to create a knock-on effect, which creates significant impacts for employees and the broader community.
“Virgin Australia is not alone as a business in being deeply affected by the events of recent months,” she said.
“It is clear that vaccination is the only way back to normal freedom of movement and the richness in life that comes from spending meaningful, in-person time with family, friends and colleagues.
“Vaccination is the only solution to the situation Australia currently finds itself in, and something we have determined is vital to keep our team safe, given the high public exposure most of them encounter day to day.”
Hrdlicka said the majority of the airline’s team are already vaccinated, and Virgin “will be listening to our team members to ensure we find the best fit policy for our organisation”.
“We will now commence discussing the proposed vaccination requirement in detail with our team through our internal safety committees, unions and other appropriate forums,” she said.
“We know that some team members have questions and concerns about vaccinations. Through an internal campaign of education with qualified experts, we aim to inform and assure as many of our team members as possible.
“We trust medical experts, their advice and the evidence that shows that vaccines save lives and reduce hospitalisation rates.
“Virgin Australia recognises the critical imperative to get the broader community vaccinated and will launch a competition this week to encourage as many people as we can to roll up their sleeves. We are also supportive of government-led measures to ensure travellers are vaccinated.”
The airline said it will continue to assist employees with securing vaccination appointments and provide flexible working arrangements, so team members can receive their COVID jabs.
A recent survey of Virgin team members found that over 75 per cent of our frontline workforce have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with another nine per cent registered for vaccination.
As for its office-based workforce, who do not get the same priority access to vaccines as frontline team members, over 56 per cent have had at least one dose, with another 27 per cent registered to be vaccinated.
Virgin fleet to gain nine aircraft in anticipation of domestic surge
Virgin is gearing up for an expected increase in domestic travel with the addition of nine Boeing 737-800 aircraft into its mainline fleet.
The planes will be introduced in October this year to cater for an anticipated rise in flight demand as the vaccination rate increases and interstate borders open.
All going to plan, the Boeing 737-800s should operate over the peak summer season to accommodate expected holiday travel, with an aim for all nine to be in the air by mid-February 2022.
“Airlines around the world have had to bend and stretch over the past 18 months as our fleets, teams and wider operations have responded to unprecedented border restrictions and demand volatility,” Hrdlicka said.
“But we at Virgin Australia are crystal clear that the underlying consumer desire for travel is strong.
“While our recent efforts have been directed toward adapting to and managing through a very difficult few months for communities and businesses throughout the country, we’ve also maintained a consistent focus on our strategy and medium-term growth opportunities.
“These extra aircraft are an important part of our planning, and ensure we’re ready to ramp up flying and meet the pent-up demand for domestic travel as soon as the opportunity presents itself.”
Virgin’s boss said the additional aircraft will bring the airline’s total mainline fleet to 77 and will support hundreds of jobs across the business.
“With this extra fleet capacity, we will be well-positioned to reach our target share of 33 per cent of the domestic market, and service the destinations that our customers want with the frequency they expect,” she said.