Virgin Australia became Asia’s first airline to fall to the coronavirus after the outbreak deprived the debt-burdened company of almost all income. Deloitte will take control of the company, the Brisbane-based airline said in a statement Tuesday. The administrators will be tasked with finding new investors to inject capital, reorganising borrowings or getting a buyer in an attempt to save the business. “We have commenced a process of seeking interest from parties for participation in the recapitalisation of the business and its future, and there have been several expressions of interest so far,” said Vaughan Strawbridge, who is one of the four administrators at Deloitte. Malaysia mulls merging AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines, as coronavirus crisis hits industry Virgin Australia joins FlyBe – the UK’s biggest domestic airline before it collapsed last month – among the industry’s first corporate casualties of the virus. Airlines have been pommeled by domestic and international travel bans that forced them to seek government aid. Virgin Australia, which had already furloughed 80 per cent of its 10,000-strong workforce, will continue to operate some flights for essential workers, freight and the repatriation of Australians, it said. The fate of Virgin Australia, which had more than A$5 billion (US$3.2 billion) in debt as of the end of 2019, hung in the balance after it stopped virtually all services because of the virus and its request for state help failed. The company had asked the government for a A$1.4 billion loan, convertible into equity, to see it through the crisis. The airline’s Velocity Frequent Flyer programme is a separate company and is not in administration, according to the statement Tuesday. A voluntary administrator is usually appointed by directors after they decide the company is insolvent or nearing insolvency. Virgin Australia had about A$1.1 billion in cash at the end of 2019. The airline is dominated by Qantas Airways in essentially a two-player market in Australia and hasn’t made an annual profit for seven years. Virgin Australia’s fight for survival triggered an ugly feud with its larger domestic rival. Qantas argued Virgin shouldn’t be rewarded with a bailout, while Virgin accused Qantas of spreading false rumours about its ebbing cash position – allegations denied by Qantas. At least two buyout groups were preparing to take over Virgin Australia, the Australian Financial Review reported last week. Globally, airlines may lose out on US$314 billion in ticket sales this year because of the virus, according to the International Air Transport Association. While governments in the US and across Europe have stepped in with support, or said they intend to, the Australian government baulked at potentially owning a stake in a money-losing domestic airline. Ministers repeatedly said their goal is to have two competing airlines in Australia, though stopped short of singling out Virgin Australia for any special help. Asia’s airports at ‘rock bottom’ as number of passengers plummets 95 per cent Almost entirely owned by foreign airlines, Virgin Australia is a unique experiment in global aviation. Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways PJSC, HNA Group and Nanshan Group each own about 20 per cent of the company. The Australian government said Virgin Australia’s shareholders should be their first source of financial aid. Virgin Australia’s stock was suspended earlier this month while restructuring talks continued. The shares last traded at less than 9 Australian cents apiece on April 4, valuing the company at A$726 million.