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'We brought much-needed competition to Australia's skies.' Richard Branson's open letter to Virgin Australia staff.

British billionaire and Virgin airline founder Sir Richard Branson has responded to Virgin Australia’s voluntary administration with an open letter to the airline’s employees.

On Tuesday morning, Virgin Australia confirmed it had entered voluntary administration.

“I am so proud of all of you and everything we achieved together,” Branson began. “20 years ago, we wanted to bring much needed competition to Australia’s skies, to lower airfares, to give consumers choice, to create thousands of jobs and put a smile on people’s faces.”

Bill Shorten and Gus Worland discuss the importance of Virgin Australia on the Today show. Post continues below video.

Video via Channel 9

He said he understood today’s news would be upsetting, and made a dig at the federal government which has repeatedly refused to loan money to the airline.

“I know how devastating the news today will be to you all. 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.”

Branson claimed this was not the end and he was determined to see Virgin Australia back up and running soon.

“We will work with Virgin Australia’s administrators and management team, with investors and with government to make this happen and create a stronger business ready to provide even more value to customers, competition to the market, stimulus to the economy, and jobs for our wonderful people,” he wrote.

“This is not the end for Virgin Australia, but I believe a new beginning. I promise that we will work day and night to turn this into reality.”

“The most challenging time we have ever faced.”

On Monday, Brandon shared another open letter to Virgin employees around the world, demanding government support to bail out the struggling airline and warning what a Qantas monopoly would mean for Australian skies.

The letter began “To all the Virgin family”, with Branson saying he wanted to ensure staff knew all the facts.

“Over the five decades I have been in business, this is the most challenging time we have ever faced. It is hard to find the words to convey what a devastating impact this pandemic continues to have on so many communities, businesses and people around the world.

“From a business perspective, the damage to many is unprecedented and the length of the disruption remains worryingly unknown.”

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Virgin airlines restarting
Virgin Australia is expected to go into administration today. Image: Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty.

Branson said he had seen "lots of comments about my net worth", which is estimated at more than AU$6.9 billion, "but that is calculated on the value of Virgin businesses around the world before this crisis, not sitting as cash in a bank account ready to withdraw".

He said much of his personal wealth was being invested across his companies around the world to save jobs, "with a big part of that going to Virgin Atlantic".

"The challenge right now is that there is no money coming in and lots going out."

On Tuesday morning AEST, Branson announced he will mortgage his private Caribbean island to raise money to help his empire, but he called on government support to save the airline.

"The reality of this unprecedented crisis is that many airlines around the world need government support and many have already received it. Without it there won’t be any competition left and hundreds of thousands more jobs will be lost, along with critical connectivity and huge economic value."

Voluntary administration.

Virgin Australia has entered voluntary administration - the process where an independent administrator is appointed to try to save the business - after it was unable to secure a $1.4 billion loan from the federal government and was not offered enough by the NSW and Queensland state governments.

The airline will continue to operate its scheduled international and domestic flights which are helping to transport essential workers, freight and return Australians home.

In Australia, Virgin is struggling to overcome $5 billion in debt. It employs about 10,000 people directly across the country and supports another 6000 jobs indirectly.

On Monday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg suggested the airline's "very big shareholders with deep pockets" should be doing more.

Branson said the "brilliant" Virgin Australia team was fighting to survive and needs support "to get through this catastrophic global crisis".

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"We are hopeful that Virgin Australia can emerge stronger than ever, as a more sustainable, financially viable airline. If Virgin Australia disappears, Qantas would effectively have a monopoly of the Australian skies. We all know what that would lead to."

The dangers of a monopoly.

Despite the federal government confirming it would not help Virgin, with any assistance provided on a sector-wide basis, commentators are concerned about what a Qantas monopoly would mean.

Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten told the Today show Virgin's collapse would be catastrophic for airfares.

"The real reason why we need to keep Virgin floating is not just the tens of thousands of jobs, but it's a thing called cheap airfares. When you have a monopoly, and that's what will happen if Virgin collapses because there's no willing replacement right there tomorrow to take over the terminals, all that will happen is airfares will go up and up and up. How does that suit anyone?

"People who say 'Oh, the government shouldn't get involved', well who do you think is going to pay the dole checks? Would you rather pay some strategic investment in a loan and keep tens of thousands of skilled Aussies in work, looking after tourism in the regions, or do you just want to pay for them to be on the dole?"

The airline is 90 per cent foreign-owned by Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Chinese conglomerates HNA Group and Hanshan.

Independent analyst Brendan Sobie from Sobie Aviation told AAP it was crucial to maintain competition in the Australian market, and if Virgin collapsed the government may need to step in with measures such as a fare cap.

"Australia has an open market but in an extraordinary situation, they could consider doing something to make sure ... if there’s a monopoly on some routes Qantas doesn't abuse that," the analyst said. "They could put in something like a fare cap."

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Feature images: Getty.

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