Flight Centre's chief executive Graham Turner is defending calls to open international borders even though people will inevitably die as a result.
Graham Turner defended Virgin Australia's chief Jayne Hrdlicka after she said "some people may die" but the borders should open as soon as possible.
Her comments led to calls on social media for a boycott Virgin Australia.
Turner said on RNZ's First Up programme that people died from flu, road accidents and smoking, and Covid-19 was another minor risk in the country that people would learn to live with.
He said some of the criticism of Hrdlicka was unfair because her comments had been taken out of context, as she simply meant once people got vaccinated and started to travel again, the virus would be endemic.
"Basically she was saying, once the vast majority of the population are vaccinated and particularly the vulnerable section of the population and people start travelling again, the virus is going to be endemic and some people are going to die from it," he said.
"About 2000 people in Australia in a normal year die from the flu. Thousands of people die from road accidents. I know in the United States hundreds of thousands of people die from smoking.
"So, it's just another one of those minor risk factors in the country that we're going to have to learn to live with and I think Jayne was probably a bit victimised. Things were just taken a little bit out of context ... I thought her argument was quite a valid one."
The country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison called her remarks insensitive. However, Turner dismissed Morrison's statement as more about winning votes with an election on the horizon.
Turner said both New Zealand and Australia had been too conservative on their vaccination schemes, which he said was key to safe travel.
"The US has got something like 60 or 70 per cent at least with one vaccine. The UK is the same. Even Canada, who started very slow, they're up to 50 per cent with one shot now. Those are the countries that are going to leap ahead of us we don't really start getting into it."
The Flight Centre boss said the transtasman bubble was a step in the right direction to getting his company back on track, but those flights represented a small part of the business.
The Cook Island bubble and other smaller routes opening up was also psychologically important, as it signalled to people that travel was once again a viable option, he added and was optimistic major routes would reopen within months.
"I think we'll probably see the UK and US coming fairly shortly too - by short, I mean three, six and eight months - because they've got the vaccinations."
He said while some remained risk-averse to international travel, others were less so and that vaccination should be key to any decisions people made.
"We just have to get used to living with this virus it's going to be around for a long time. We're really lucky the vaccinations work really well. We're just going to have to accept in Australia and in New Zealand that we're going to have to live with the virus. It's going to be endemic, if you don't want to catch Covid, you're going to have to be vaccinated."
He predicted that the company would be back to pre-Covid-19 levels by June 2024, and the re-opening of major international routes would lead to progress in that direction. He said in New Zealand the company had lost two thirds of its staff due to the global pandemic, but had since brought some back and expected staff levels would also return to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of 2024.
"We have about $1.7 billion in cash ... the revenue is increasing every month. It was very low last July for example and now it's up to about 20 per cent of pre-Covid revenue, but we've got our costs down to about 30 percent of pre-Covid levels, so it's certainly affected us.
"With 23 countries, we went from about $24 billion in sales, to about $3 billion this year. From about 21,000 staff to about 7000, we've really downsized a lot. But we're quite resilient and we've got plenty of time to come back."