With their baggage already loaded, Air Australia passengers were patiently waiting to board a flight when they were handed a company press release. The shocking news they received was that the budget airline had filed for voluntary administration and that the company’s entire fleet was grounded indefinitely. Air Australia had been selling tickets online until the day before and had shown no signs that they were struggling financially until this unexpected press release.The sudden filing left 300 workers unsure of their future with the company and over 4,000 passengers stranded overseas without valid tickets to fly. Other airlines such as Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar are pitching in to try and help some of the stranded passengers get home, but it is proving a big task. Passengers who take their Air Australia tickets to a Qantas or Jetstar desk will receive a ticket for equal value on their airlines. Virgin Australia are offering discount flights from Denpasar to airports in Australia for just $199 U.S.Those stranded overseas are being advised to contact their travel insurance companies to try and get new tickets with other airlines. It is likely that passengers who paid for tickets with credit cards will receive full refunds of their flight costs, but those who paid in cash will be left out of pocket. This is because Air Australia has no money available to offer refunds to those who paid in cash.Authorities are calling for a full investigation into the sudden nature of the company’s filing and into the Australian aviation industry as a whole. Questions are being raised as to how an airline can be allowed to operate without proving it can be profitable and live up to its commitments. Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gilliard, has stated that the airline should do whatever it can to help the stranded passengers and its staff, who are currently standing down and waiting for news. Ms. Gilliard also suggested the company face a review by the fair work ombudsman amid claims of low pay.Air Australia is a relatively new airline, having been formed three months ago as part of charter firm Strategic. Signs of hardship for the company had been noted over the past few weeks including late fee payments to Air Services Australia and for terminal leases at Perth Airport. The airline, however, denied claims of any financial problems just 48 hours prior to it entering voluntary administration. It is still hoped that administrators may find a way to save the airline along with its employees and to make reparations to those customers who have been affected by the fleet’s grounding.
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