Virgin Australia CEO Calls For Borders To Reopen This Year

Virgin Australia’s CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has joined a chorus of airline and business leaders calling on the Australian…

Virgin Australia CEO Calls For Borders To Reopen This Year

Virgin Australia’s CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has joined a chorus of airline and business leaders calling on the Australian Government to re-open the country’s borders sometime this year. Speaking at a business function in Brisbane on Monday, the Virgin Australia boss took aim at the Australian Government’s mid-2022 timeline to re-open borders.

Virgin Australia’s boss is calling for Australia’s borders to reopen before mid-2022. Photo: Getty Images

Australia needs to learn to live with COVID says Virgin Australia boss

As Australia’s vaccination program continues, Ms Hrdlicka said Australia needs to learn to live with COVID-19 and accept the challenges it might bring.

“We need to get the borders open for our own health and for the economy,” the Virgin Australia CEO said. “We forget the fact we have learnt to live with lots of viruses and challenges over the years, and the government has to learn to live with this and sooner than June 2022.”

“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.”

Ms Hrdlicka said as a consequence, people might die. But the CEO said those numbers will be smaller than the numbers who die each year from influenza. Jayne Hrdlicka argues the Australian Government lives with that yearly outcome.

Calling Jayne Hrdlicka’s comments “insensitive,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday, “I’m not going to take risks with Australians’ lives.

Jayne Hrdlicka at Monday’s Queensland University of Technology business event. Photo: Roger Phillips/QUT

Australian Government hardens stance on border reopening

Jayne Hrdlicka’s contribution to the increasingly polarised border debate comes in the wake of the Australian Government recently indicating it was comfortable keeping Australia’s international borders closed until mid-2002. That is despite growing indications the vast bulk of the Australian population will be vaccinated by the end of 2021.

A recent poll reveals 73% of Australians are content to see the country’s borders stay shut until mid-2022. 21% of the poll respondents said the border re-opening should tie in with the vaccination rollout. But the Government has its eye on winning the next election. It doesn’t give a toss about a small percentage of the population upset because their annual trip to Aspen is off the cards.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce is reluctant to openly criticize the Australian Government. But he has long said he’s keen to see Australia’s borders reopen as soon as safely possible. He argues a combination of vaccinations, digital health passports, and the judicious use of quarantine can facilitate that.

Qantas is keen to restart its normally extensive international operations. These days, Virgin Australia is solely a domestic airline. However, the airline is planning to resume some flights to New Zealand later this year. To date, Virgin Australia has refrained from joining the debate surrounding the border closures. As a purely domestic airline, with Australian’s kept onshore and redirecting money normally spent on international travel over to domestic travel, Virgin Australia’s bottom line arguably gets a bounce from the international border closure.

But as Jayne Hrdlicka said at the Queensland University of Technology business event, keeping Australia’s borders shut unnecessarily has significant broader economic consequences that will come back to bite her airline over the longer term.

Even as a solely domestic airline, Virgin Australia wants to see international borders open. Photo: Getty Images

Australian Government says the priority is keeping Australians safe

The Virgin Australia CEO’s comments align with what a growing number of medicos, business leaders, and dissenting politicians say. But the Australian Government seems happy to choose its own path.

“Our primary responsibility as a government is to keep our people safe,” said Australian Government Minister David Littleproud on ABC radio on Tuesday morning. “We are in no hurry to open up borders until we can get that surety.

Referring to Jayne Hrdlicka’s comments, Mr Littleproud said, “The Federal Government will take its advice from the Chief Medical Officer, not from CEOs of corporate companies.

“If you look at us (Australia) in comparison to the rest of the world, I would not want to be anywhere else at the moment.”

Airline bosses like Jayne Hrdlicka and Alan Joyce are playing to one audience. The Australian Government figures it is playing to another, much bigger audience. The government figures it has the numbers.

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FAA Seeks Further Penalties Against Unruly Passengers

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is continuing to crack down on bad behaviour. Most recently, the FAA has…

FAA Seeks Further Penalties Against Unruly Passengers

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is continuing to crack down on bad behaviour. Most recently, the FAA has proposed penalties ranging from US$9,000 to $52,500. This follows some egregious instances of passenger misconduct.

One Delta passenger is facing a $52,500 fine after a major disturbance on a Honolulu-bound flight. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

FAA cracks down on unruly passenger behavior

With bad behavior rising in airports and on airlines, the FAA is now enforcing a zero-tolerance policy towards passengers who cause inflight disturbances or ignore follow crew instructions. The policy was to last until March 31 but has since been extended.

Airlines have referred approximately 1,300 cases of passenger bad behavior to the FAA since February. Driving the rise in bad behavior, which can range from minor disturbances to a significant ruckus, is the face mask regime. The FAA also cites a spike in bad behavior inflight around the time of the January disturbances in Washington DC.

Federal law forbids interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft. When it comes to interfering with the performance of a crewmember’s duties by assaulting or intimidating that crewmember, federal law provides for criminal fines and imprisonment.

Since early this year, the FAA has toughened its stance against unruly passengers. The agency had a previous policy of issuing warning letters in many cases.

“The FAA has seen a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior,” says FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. Mr Dickson said flying was the safest mode of travel. He also noted that by cracking down on bad behavior, he intended to keep it that way.

The FAA’s Steve Dickson has no time for misbehaving passengers. Photo: Getty Images

Proposed fines ranges from $9,000 to $52,500

Most recently, the FAA has proposed fines against a range of passengers. That includes a $9000 fine for an Allegiant Air passenger who refused to wear a face mask inflight correctly. That passenger also declined to follow instructions from a flight attendant, and swore at flight attendants. A JetBlue passenger faces a hefty $18,500 fine after refusing to correctly wear his face mask and continuing to drink his own alcohol inflight after being asked not to.

A Southwest Airlines passenger upped the bad behavior stakes on New Year’s Day. As a result, he is now facing a $27,000 fine. His behavior was so bad, he was taken into police custody after the plane diverted to Oklahoma City. According to the FAA, “the passenger began yelling and forcefully banging his hands on the seat in front of him, disturbing nearby passengers. During the flight, he yelled that he was going to kill someone and that he had a bomb and was going to blow up the aircraft.”

A Southwest passenger faces a substantial fine after an inflight bomb threat. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

A Delta passenger wins the bad behavior prize

The FAA is saving its biggest proposed fine, $52,500, for a Honolulu-bound Delta passenger. That passenger tried to open the cockpit door, refused to follow instructions, and then repeatedly physically assaulted a flight attendant. Police met the plane on arrival, and the man was taken into custody.

Earlier this month, Delta Air Lines said it had banned around 1,200 passengers for failing to wear a face mask or not wearing a face mask properly. However, the airline notes not all cases made it to the FAA.

Airlines and their employees who work on the frontline and face the brunt of passenger misconduct have welcomed the FAA’s tough stance. Delta CEO Ed Bastian has outlined his view on badly behaved passengers. While he does not speak for other airlines, he has captured the general consensus.

“Those who refuse to display basic civility to our people or their fellow travelers are not welcome on Delta. Their actions will not be tolerated, and they will not have the privilege of flying our airline ever again.”

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