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Financially Strapped Virgin Australia Enters into Voluntary Administration

Travelers wait in line at a Virgin Australia Airlines counter at Kingsford Smith International Airport, amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Sydney, Australia, March 18, 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Australia’s second-largest airline, Virgin Australia, into a voluntary administration agreement under which it will be run by an outside entity.

The airline said Tuesday it had entered into an agreement with the global financial services company Deloitte after the Australian government rejected its request for a $887 billion loan. Administration is the equivalent of provisions in U.S. bankruptcy laws that are used to restructure financially ailing companies.

Vaughan Strawbridge, one of the airline’s new administrators, said in a statement that the intention was “undertake a process to restructure and refinance the business and bring it out of administration as soon as possible.” Strawbridge says there are already several parties who have expressed interest in taking part in a restructuring plan.

Virgin Australia was already mired in over $3 billion in debt when the government shut down international flights in and out of the country to limit the spread of COVID-19, forcing Virgin to ground most of its fleet and the majority of its 10,000 employees. The airline’s possible collapse would have left rival Qantas Airways with a virtual monopoly in Australia.

Virgin Australia’s major shareholders include British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which owns a 10 percent stake in the struggling airline.