Airport Uses A Bulldozer To Block Virgin Australia Plane From Departing

Virgin Australia is currently in administration, Australia’s version of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The perennial money losing airline became the largest victim so far of the coronavirus crisis, after Australia’s government declined to provide it with subsidies.

The airline does, however, continue to operate some flights being funded by the government to support essential domestic air travel.

While Deloitte, as administrator, seeks to find new money to restart the carrier, it’s also going to be restructuring the airline’s debts. Since Virgin Australia reportedly owes about US$10 million to the Perth airport in unpaid fees, the airport decided to block a Boeing 737-800 from taking off as a way of physically securing their claim – using a bulldozer.

The airport, which has taken liens against four Virgin Australia planes, also blocked an Airbus A330 with a vehicle. These aren’t planes Virgin Australia is currently using. If they emerge from administration they aren’t likely to need their full fleet anyway. However physical ‘possession’ of the aircraft is meant to secure the airport’s negotiating position as it seeks payment of charges due.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Calling a front loader a bulldozer is like referring to a 737 as a 777. It’s all about proper terminology

  2. I don’t get it, the control tower just has to denied taking off permission. I don’t think that any pilot is going to risk anyones life for this or is just going to sneak an Airbus through Perth’s highways and roads.

  3. I’m a little confused (and almost certainly missing something) – aircraft are usually pushed back so how does parking a vehicle directly ahead of the aircraft stop it from going anywhere? Is there no push-back vehicle (or whatever it is that they’re called) small enough to fit in the gap between the aircraft and the airport’s blocking vehicle.

  4. Looks like they booted/bolted something onto the tires too, Philly parking authority-style.

  5. Don’t you just love their accents. When I’ m in Oz land the Aussies hear my accent and ask me “are you a yank”?

  6. If Australia has a Finders Keepers law, this would make sense. Otherwise, they’re just holding aircraft that they have no legal claim to in storage.

  7. Another very misleading title…these aircraft are not blocked from taking off because they aren’t attempting to take off in the first place. They’re just blocking them from moving anywhere. But saying that they are blocking the aircraft from taking off? That makes it sound like they drove a bulldozer onto the runway right before pilots attempted to fly the aircraft…


  8. I suspect the front loader would bring more bids that a used B737-800 these days.

  9. So… see those black boxes where the nose wheel sits?? Those are reference marks for parking differently sized aircraft, so that the jetway can be properly positioned. for disembark… they’ll have markings on them:
    737-800/900, 757, 777, 787 and so on, so different sized aircraft can be parked there.. this plane isn’t being “blocked” from taxiing, or taking off.. this is another example of shoddy journalistic photography

  10. I am sure the leasing company won’t be too happy about this. There is no chance that virgin actually owns any of these planes. “Good plan”. Stop them from operating and never get paid.

  11. All of the air data ports are covered and that’s a wrap around the nose tires used when parking aircraft, they don’t intend to use this plane any time soon. Same deal with the a330, they are blocking the plane from leaving but it’s a moot point since they’re parked due to covid-19.

  12. Everybody wants their moment in the spotlight. Now we’re all aware that there’s an airport in Perth whose management has nothing much to do. At least this story gave us something to look at, disappointing as it was.

  13. Anyone who has worked on the ramp knows that it isn’t unusual for someone (pilot or trained mechanic repositioning an aircraft) to pull in too close to the terminal or some other ramp obstruction like bollards or any of the myriad of obstacles near a maintenance hangar. It is possible to “pull” it back from behind the front wheel but it takes a bit of caution. If the front wheel is in the mud off a taxiway you can also, very carefully, pull it from behind the main gear, although that is much more of a production. It happens maybe once a month at a larger airport. And, by the way, aircraft repossession companies have been known to fly planes out of an airport despite the airport authority trying to stop them. And, once you are on a taxiway, air traffic control is not going to get in the middle of it. If you have the proper clearance you will get a take off. 747’s have taken off from “third world” countries with little more than a visual rules request. Australia runs a pretty tight aviation authority but they still not an enforcement arm for some airport authority pipe dream. If I were the airport I would be a LOT more worried to find the airline or lessor pulling avionics out of the aircraft over night or even dropping the engines, although that would be more obvious and more time consuming. The airframe ain’t worth much without engines or avionics. The people in the business of recovering these things may not have the best business practices.

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