Grounded Virgin Australia aircraft are seen parked at Brisbane Airport in Brisbane, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Brisbane Airport Corporation is working with airlines by accommodating up to 100 grounded aircraft free of charge. AAP Image/Darren England
Grounded Virgin Australia aircraft are seen parked at Brisbane Airport in Brisbane, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Brisbane Airport Corporation is working with airlines by accommodating up to 100 grounded aircraft free of charge. AAP Image/Darren England

Mayor confident cash-strapped Virgin will return to Ballina

BALLINA mayor David Wright has brushed aside reports of Virgin Australia's imminent collapse.

On March 25, Virgin Australia temporarily suspended all services from the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport due to government-mandated travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week it was widely reported the carrier could go into voluntary administration within days while awaiting the Federal Government's response to its bailout plea, and on Tuesday the airline went into a trading halt.

However, Cr Wright told The Northern Star yesterday that Virgin's prospects were not so grim.

"From what I've heard, Virgin is working tirelessly to ensure flights from Ballina will resume as quickly as possible," Cr Wright said.

"They could be flying as early as May."

All airlines pay the airport for every person that flies in or out of the area, and so a carrier like Virgin helps to cover the significant costs of running the airport owned by Ballina Shire Council.

"When you have an asset like that that's dependent on people, we are all a bit worried," Cr Wright said.

"Jetstar is our main carrier, and Virgin is very important to us.

"Hopefully it will come back and be at full strength before long.

"We desperately want them back."

Cr Wright said he was confident the airport would survive, and hoped Ballina and Byron Bay would be must-see destinations for visitors once the travel restrictions resulting from the pandemic were abandoned.

In the meantime, Cr Wright has written to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, asking for support so that FlyPelican can run flights from Ballina to Sydney.

FlyPelican is the only airline operating from the airport, with flights to Newcastle twice a week.

"There are hundreds of health workers who come through our airport from Sydney. We need flights up and running for essential workers," Cr Wright said.

Virgin Australia was contacted for comment.



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