Calls for a boycott of Virgin Australia were trending on Twitter on Tuesday in the wake of chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka's comments that borders should reopen even if "some people may die".
Without directly addressing Ms Hrdlicka's comments, the airline defended itself on the social media platform.
"The safety of our guests has always been our number one priority – nothing will change that. We have worked in lock-step with State and Federal governments to put the health and safety of Australians first, and we'll keep doing that as we learn to live with COVID-19," the airline tweeted.
The safety of our guests has always been our number one priority – nothing will change that. We have worked in lock-step with State and Federal governments to put the health and safety of Australians first, and we’ll keep doing that as we learn to live with COVID-19.— Virgin Australia (@VirginAustralia) May 18, 2021
Speaking at a business lunch in Brisbane on Monday, Ms Hrdlicka called for international borders to reopen once a sufficient number of Australians had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
"COVID will be part of the community, we will become sick with COVID and it won't put us in hospital, and it won't put people into dire straits because we'll have a vaccine," Ms Hrdlicka said.
"Some people may die, but it will be way smaller than with the flu.
"We're forgetting the fact that we've learnt how to live with lots of viruses and challenges over the years, and we've got to learn how to live with this."
Ms Hrdlicka's comment that "some people may die" became the focus of fury on social media.
In response to Twitter users that accused the airline of placing profits above human life, the airline echoed Mr Hrdlicka's comments about vaccinations and borders.
"We have and will continue to work closely with both State and Federal governments to support the health and safety of the Australian community, the question is not if, but when, we will be sufficiently vaccinated to protect our people and our hospital system to open borders."
In another tweet, the airline said eradication of COVID-19 "cannot be the goal for our country".
We agree with State and Federal leaders that eradication of COVID-19 cannot be the goal for our country. The question is not if, but when we will be sufficiently vaccinated to protect our people and our hospital system to open our International borders. ^EM— Virgin Australia (@VirginAustralia) May 18, 2021
The Prime Minister Scott Morrison also criticised Ms Hrdlicka's comments calling them insensitive.
"Nine-hundred-and-ten Australians have lost their lives," he said. "Every single one of those lives was a terrible tragedy, and it doesn't matter how old they were. They were someone's mum, someone's dad, someone's aunty, someone's cousin, brother, sister, friend."
Earlier this month, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce also warned that Australia risked becoming a "hermit nation" if borders remained closed for too long.
He warned that Australia's tourism industry could suffer long term damage, with tourists choosing other markets as the rest of the world opened up.