April 21 (UPI) -- Virgin Australia said Tuesday it's entered voluntary administration after billionaire owner Richard Branson failed to secure a loan from the Australian government, putting some 16,000 jobs at risk.
Australia's second-largest airline said a team of administrators have taken over to "recapitalize the business and help ensure it emerges in a stronger financial position on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis."
Commercial air travel worldwide has declined during the crisis. Earlier, the Australian government turned down the airline's request for an $880 million loan.
In an open letter to Virgin Australia employees posted on Twitter, Branson blamed the Australian government and vowed the carrier will survive.
"This is not the end for Virgin Australia and its unique culture," Branson wrote. "Never one to give up, I want to assure all of you -- and our competitor [Qantas] -- that we are determined to see Virgin Australia back up and running soon."
Administrators said although there are no plans yet for layoffs, 80 percent of Virgin Australia's employees aren't working and the airline has cut back 95 percent of its flights.
Vaughan Strawbridge, a voluntary administrator, said the company is looking for new owners or investors. Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines are also major shareholders in Virgin Australia.
"The intent is to seek to sell the majority, if not all of the business, as one," said Strawbridge.