Virgin Australia is winding back domestic and international flights as the coronavirus continues to have a considerable impact on travel demand.
Affecting flights across the Tasman and onwards to Pacific Island destinations, as well as to the airline’s key long-range routes to Los Angeles and Tokyo, here’s what you need to know.
Virgin Australia dials back domestic flights
Having already reduced domestic flying by 3% this financial year, Virgin Australia will further pare back its domestic services by 7% in the final quarter (April to June), giving an overall reduction of 5% for the financial year.
This will continue with a 6.2% reduction into the new financial year.
Virgin Australia advises that the “services that will be reduced are mainly on markets that have multiple daily frequencies, minimising disruption to guests.”
However, when asked by Executive Traveller, Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah would not elaborate further, or share which parts of the domestic network would mainly be affected.
“Pleasingly, our travel bookings to Western Australia and local leisure destinations such as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and Hamilton Island continue to be ahead of where they were at the same time last year,” Scurrah shared.
To help boost demand, Virgin Australia has today launched a domestic airfare sale offering discounts of up to 35%, with business class flights on key routes such as between Sydney and Melbourne – and between Sydney and Brisbane – priced at just $399 one-way.
Business class fares on regional routes such as Sydney to Coffs Harbour and Brisbane to Rockhampton can be had for as little as $250 one-way, with transcontinental business class flights selling at $899 from Brisbane and $999 from Sydney and Melbourne, one-way.
Virgin Australia reduces Auckland flights, cuts Pacific Island routes
Across the Tasman, Virgin Australia will roll out a “temporary reduction” on flights between Sydney and Auckland – a route that currently sees 2-3 return services per day – although the dates and details have not yet been disclosed.
The airline’s Melbourne-Auckland flights will also be reduced from 11 times weekly to a daily service from May.
Flights onward from Auckland to Nuku'alofa (Tonga) will be withdrawn completely from May 1, while Virgin Australia flights from Auckland to Rarotonga (Cook Islands) are axed from July 21.
Virgin Australia will continue to serve Nuku'alofa with non-stop flights from Sydney, although Auckland-Rarotonga was Virgin Australia’s only Cook Islands route, removing the country from the airline’s network.
Virgin Australia cuts back Brisbane-Tokyo (Haneda) flights
The airline’s newest international route – Brisbane to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, set to launch on March 29 – is being reduced from a daily return service to three return flights per week.
Those reductions take place from March 30, the day after the inaugural flight, and will run until at least May 3, with VA77 from Brisbane and VA76 back from Haneda cancelled on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during this period.
Alternative travel options for affected passengers are yet to be confirmed.
Sydney-Los Angeles flights reduced
Virgin Australia currently offers daily flights between Sydney and Los Angeles, which will drop to five return flights per week from early May until early June.
As at March 13 2020, Virgin’s partner Delta Air Lines continues to fly daily between Sydney and LAX during this window, with affected Virgin Australia passengers likely reaccommodated onto these flights, or given the option of flying aboard Virgin Australia via Melbourne or Brisbane, depending on flight availability.
Virgin Australia has not announced any reductions to those Melbourne-Los Angeles and Brisbane-LAX flights, which currently operate five and six times per week, respectively.
Virgin Australia CEO commentary
“We have already announced a number of measures to mitigate the impact from COVID-19, however the pace of the global spread and decline in demand has required us to implement further changes today to minimise the future financial impact,” says Scurrah.
“As a largely domestic airline, we are less exposed to the impact on international travel, however we remain disciplined in our focus on managing capacity in response to forward bookings and continuing to reduce costs across the business.”
“It’s worth noting that domestic operations account for 88 per cent of our passengers and 78 per cent of our flight revenue,” he adds.
As previously reported by Executive Traveller, Virgin Australia is also considering several ‘status extension’ models for its Velocity Frequent Flyer members, helping to preserve the perks of Silver, Gold or Platinum status.