The airline industry can’t be allowed to fail because of coronavirus, federal Labor says.
The Morrison government has shrugged at Virgin’s $1.4 billion bailout request, saying support is already available, including the JobKeeper program.
But Labor’s transport spokeswoman Catherine King says the government should consider methods of help such as extending or guaranteeing lines of credit, or taking an equity stake.
“(This) will ensure that when the industry bounces back – and it will – government can recoup its investment,” she said in a statement on Friday.
Ms King says the industry won’t be able to hibernate during the pandemic – where travel is restricted – without government support.
“Our entire aviation sector will be critical in supporting the broader economy in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,” she said.
“It supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, promotes competition and ensures services regularly reach all Australians.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says if the government bails out Virgin it would have to do the same for other companies.
“We can’t just pick and select individuals and winners out of this,” he told The Australian.
Mr McCormack, who is also transport minister, has suggested Virgin should raise capital from its shareholders.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese says regional Australia will be hurt if one of the major airlines falls through.
“If there is one airline, there will be higher prices. If there is one airline, there will be less routes,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Albanese raised the issue with Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a meeting on Thursday evening.
Passengers from around the world are set to be repaid $57.5 billion in air travel ticket refunds, according to Flightradar24.com data.
Qantas has put a $4.2 billion price tag on the help it would need if targeted bailouts are dished out.
Virgin last week stood down about 8000 of its 10,000 workers and cut domestic capacity by 90 per cent after travel ground to a halt because of the disease.
The government has waived fees for airlines as part of more than $700 million in measures to help Australia’s ailing carriers.