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AFTA CEO Update - Tuesday 21 April 2020

Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is, has, and will continue to deliver unheard of and prolonged pain to the travel industry.

It is hard to keep saying this but each week that goes by it seems to me that the pain deepens.

Across the travel value chain on a daily basis I am informed of more difficulties and challenges, the kinds and types which have not ever been put to me before.

I know just how hard things are for everyone in the travel industry. AFTA is doing what it can to deliver simple, targeted and useful information about the various government provided packages, and other business considerations where we feel it adds value, but they don’t fit all businesses and it is clear that hard and difficult decisions are now being taken by so many.

Word today of the voluntary administration of Virgin Australia will make all this even more difficult. It is a dreadful travesty that Virgin has gone the way of administration and all we can do is cross everything and hope that the administrator can find a pathway out that ensures a future of a second airline for the Australian market.

Many in the travel industry have long memories of just how difficult this situation is off the back of 20 years ago when Ansett collapsed.

Albeit, it is early days in this process and nothing is certain until it is certain, but it would seem that we all need to brace ourselves for the rocky road ahead as this situation with Virgin is digested and deconstructed.

It is hard to believe that over the past 20 years all those involved in this situation, including govt, have not developed plans to stop the feeling of deja vu – but sadly for many that is the case.

There is also a large population of people in the travel industry who would have been in primary school when Ansett collapsed and as such, have no real idea what a single supply national airline market means, nor the emotional trauma that comes from dealing with the realities that flow from an airline collapse in our home market.

I hope that a rescue package can be found – of course everyone wants that to be the outcome, but as I have said, we need to brace ourselves for more difficult times ahead.
AFTA has warned the Federal Government of what this means for Australian consumers and travel agents when a supplier of size collapses and sadly, there has been no appetite to build solutions in advance of this situation.

What will happen next; what this means as consumer think about the value of travel credits or vouchers and what people will do, is all before us.

For what it is worth, AFTA will be doing all that we can to work through solutions and challenges, but I make no promises as C19 is very different to the cause of past airline collapse and so there is no text book, no manual, no well laid plan as to what happens next.

COVID-19 brings with it dark days for everyone in so many ways, the travel industry now enters our darkest days. As a normally positive person and someone that always looks for the good, I am struggling to find the good in this and feel the Federal Government has moved to leave the travel industry at the terminal to sought ourselves out.

To all those in the travel value chain, hang in there – I don’t have any answers today, but we will be looking to solutions to minimise the pain that is now upon us all.