Airlines join wave of support for Aussie bushfire victims

January 09, 2020
bushfires airlines
The Australian bushfires. Image: Seven News.

As Australia continues to battle its massive bushfire emergency, airlines have been ponying up to help victims and offer support for emergency workers battling the unprecedented crisis.

And it hasn’t just been the homegrown carriers opening their wallets.

The Qantas Group, which includes low-cost carrier Jetstar, donated $A1 million in cash to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund and has been making onboard announcements urging customers to donate.

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It is setting up collection points in terminals and set up a system for frequent flyers to redeem points for donations.

The airline is also one of the companies offering paid leave to volunteer firefighters and has been working with US aid agency Direct Relief to get 100,000 donated masks to bushfire-affected communities.

Qantas expects its total support to top $A3m.

“The bushfires cutting through communities and the environment across Australia has been shocking and tragic,’’ the airline said.

“The bravery of our volunteer firefighters, emergency services and the military has been inspiring and the kindness of individuals and community groups incredibly heart-warming.”

The Virgin Australia Group has been supporting the Salvation Army Disaster Appeal and matching staff donations dollar-for-dollar up to $A250,000.

The company has been offering passengers affected by the fires the ability to change bookings without penalty and also offers staff who are volunteer “fireys” paid leave.

Also on offer is support for community organizations requiring travel or logistical support.

“Through our relationships with the Salvation Army Emergency Services and organization Team Rubicon, we stand ready to support flights for emergency workers and volunteers from those organizations who are being flown to affected areas as needed,” Virgin said.

“The group has also been providing discounted airfares to emergency service organization throughout the duration of the bushfire period,.’

Across the Tasman, Air New Zealand has donated $A100,000 and is flying Kiwi firefighters and emergency personnel to Australia.

Acting chief executive Geoff McDowall said the airline had assured the New Zealand government it would continue to help.

“It is simply devastating to see this scale of loss and our hearts go out to our Australian colleagues, customers and neighbors. Kia kaha (stay strong),’’ McDowall said.

Singapore Airlines has also donated $A100,000 to the red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Appeal.

It is also helping customers affected by the fires on a case-by-case basis and offering support with booking changes.

“Australians have supported us for the past 53 years and we hope that this donation will go some way to supporting the people and communities affected by these bushfires,” Singapore Airlines regional vice president Philip Goh said.

“It is difficult to fathom the scale of the fires across Australia as it has now affected an area more than 140 times the size of Singapore.”

United Airlines is donating $US250,000 to the GoFundMe campaign set up by Hollywood personality Ellen DeGeneres. It is also matching donations for wildlife relief as well as up to $50,000 of donations from its MileagePlus members.

On the manufacturer front, Boeing has donated $A1 million for recovery and relief efforts.

The US aerospace giant, which has a significant presence in Australia, said the contributions would be directed across the country through the Australian Red Cross.

“Boeing’s global team, including our 3,800 employees across Australia, are deeply saddened by the tragic impact of the Australian bushfires,” interim chief executive  Greg Smith said.

“Through our partnership with the Australian Red Cross, we are working quickly to bring recovery and relief efforts to those residents most impacted by these devastating fires.”

The company is also matching qualifying employee contributions made to eligible nonprofits for Australian bushfire relief efforts.