“Some people may die,” Virgin Australia boss’ insensitive words

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Jayne Hrdlicka, Virgin Australia CEO

Virgin Australia is still battling a PR nightmare after Jayne Hrdlicka the airline CEO made a speech at the Queensland University of Technology using the controversial statement “some people may die”.

Virgin Australia PR department is very busy defending not just the importance it places on the health and safety of customers but also what they should address is the importance their CEO places on their market growth strategies after her words sparked not just a social media frenzy which can be seen but also the negative word of mouth that will persist and generate the negative customer confidence that will hit the airline for many months to come.

Speaking at Queensland University of Technology’s Business Leaders’ Forum last week, Jayne Hrdlicka said the narrative needed to change around COVID-19 in Australia as the country continues to roll out its vaccine program, according to the uni’s media centre.

“We can’t keep (COVID) out forever,” she said.

“We’re all going to be sicker than we ever have been in the past because we’re not exposed to the viruses and challenges that the rest of the world is dealing with, so we need to get the borders open for our own health and for the economy (once vaccinated).

“It will make us sick but won’t put us into hospital. Some people may die, but it will be way smaller than the flu.”

My own opinion: I would ask Jayne Hrdlicka if she has considered among the people that may die, there may be some of her loved ones. I don’t think she has; it seems her comments were made keeping the dollar sign forefront.

For an airline CEO would be like saying, “we fly there, and we put all the care and safety requirements necessary, but something could happen with the aeroplane and people may die”.

I don’t think any Australian would be against the idea of safe re-opening of the borders, eventually when the majority of Australian’s are vaccinated. However, no one should make any reference to the fact that people may die, “safe” reopening would mean that no lives should be lost.

Hrdlicka should work hard on her choice of words if she wants to drive Virgin Australia successfully in this market.

Virgin Australia bread and butter is the domestic market, not their small international network, therefore I do not understand what pressure Virgin would have for a quick restart of their few international destinations they have and pushing the argument of re-opening of the international border with such controversial words.

The airline has since said “we have worked in lock-step with state and federal governments to put the health and safety of Australians first, and we’ll keep doing that as we learn to live with COVID-19,” the statement read.

However, it appears to have stirred up even more criticism from people, some of them loyal customers on social media.

The move was in reaction to the federal government’s expectation that Australia’s international border won’t reopen until mid-2022, according to its newly released Budget papers.

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