Jayne Hrdlicka, CEO of Virgin Australia: Flying will likely be irresistible

Virgin Australia’s newly appointed CEO said it was “irresistible” to fly again as the airline seeks to regain market share under new owners.

Jayne Hrdlicka told CNBC on Wednesday that the company was well positioned to capture a third of the domestic market and would bring it back to pre-Covid levels when intra-country travel resumes.

“We’re three weeks in new ownership, we currently have the strongest balance sheet of any airline in the country, and by January … we want to account for about a third of the domestic market. That was what we were before Covid,” Hrdlicka said in an exclusive Interview with Will Koulouris from CNBC.

Hrdlicka is the former head of the low-cost airline Jetstar, a subsidiary of Qantas. She was named to succeed Paul Scurrah in October, as part of a strategy by new owners Bain Capital to rescue the flying airline after it was voluntarily managed in April.

It is our job as Virgin Australia to lift as much as possible, fly as much as possible and get as many of our people back to work as possible.

Jayne Hrdlicka

Virgin Australia CEO

Their installation coincides with the start of the summer season in Australia, which has largely reopened its internal borders amid falling coronavirus cases.

“It will be irresistible to fly again,” said Hrdlicka.

“We’re in a great place now as a country. We can get out, hang out with other people and travel,” she continued.

Virgin Australia Boeing 737 sit empty on the tarmac at Sydney Airport on August 5, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.

James D. Morgan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“It’s our job as Virgin Australia to lift as much as possible, fly as much as possible, get as many of our people back to work as possible and allow Australia to really enjoy December and January.”

Virgin Australia is vying to get customers back after it expires in the first half of the year. Earlier this week, the airline launched a new frequent flyer program for passengers traveling before March 28, 2021 in an attempt to top similar promotions from competitor Qantas.

Hrdlicka said the competition was “the way it should be”. However, she added that it was “too early” to make an international travel call, and contradicted comments from Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, who said last month that all international travelers should be vaccinated.

“We will listen and learn, work closely with the government and make a call once it is clearer what the correct answer is,” she said.

– Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jayne Hrdlicka.

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