The company said Tuesday that it had entered voluntary administration as it looked for money to revive its business, and that it eventually hoped to “emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis.”
Virgin Atlantic, Branson’s British airline, is also seeking a commercial loan from the UK government, and has put its staff on several months of unpaid leave.
In a call with reporters Tuesday, administrators said there was no immediate plan for any layoffs at Virgin Australia.
The carrier already halted most operations in recent weeks, with 95% of flights cut and 80% of the workforce temporarily off the job, CEO Paul Scurrah said. Virgin Australia normally has 10,000 employees, with another 6,000 workers indirectly employed, he added.
Vaughan Strawbridge, a partner at Deloitte in Australia who is serving as a voluntary administrator, said the company had started looking for new owners or investors to help recover the business.
“The intent is to seek to sell the majority, if not all of the business, as one,” said Strawbridge.
So far, more than 10 parties have already expressed an interest in taking a stake, and the company expects to have a better sense of its future over approximately the next two months, he added.
“This is not intended to be a long, protracted process,” he said.
The Australian Treasury said Tuesday that it would work with Virgin Australia’s administrators “to ensure Australia maintains two commercially viable airlines.”
A spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also said it was working with Virgin “to identify expected next steps.”
In addition to approaching the government, the company had looked to investors for help. Outside the Virgin Group, the airline’s major shareholders include Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines.
But “our shareholders were unlikely to be able to participate … given they are all suffering from Covid-19,” Scurrah told reporters Tuesday.
“In most countries federal governments have stepped in, in this unprecedented crisis for aviation, to help their airlines. Sadly, that has not happened in Australia,” he wrote.
“I want to assure all of you — and our competitor — that we are determined to see Virgin Australia back up and running soon.”
— Hanna Ziady contributed to this report.