Virgin Australia grounds almost all domestic flights

Virgin Australia will suspend most domestic flights and ground 125 aircraft from this weekend.

By David Flynn, March 25 2020
Virgin Australia grounds almost all domestic flights

Virgin Australia has been forced to make even more drastic cuts to its domestic network following state border closures, commercial lockdowns and the Federal Government’s advice against air travel unless absolutely necessary.

The airline will suspend most of its domestic flying from midnight Friday 27 March until 14 June 2020, and what remains will be a bare-bones operation, representing just 10% of the airline’s conventional domestic capacity.

Virgin says that it will temporarily suspend services to 19 destinations, but continue flying to 17 destinations at a near-daily rate "in order to transport essential services, critical freight and logistics."

Those routes will be served by a fleet that's been winnowed to only 13 aircraft – mostly Boeing 737s and Fokker 100s – with 125 aircraft being mothballed, and low-cost arm Tigerair Australia immediately grounded.

Virgin Australia's revised domestic roster

Here are the Virgin Australia domestic services which will continue to run, albeit at what the airline terms "a significantly reduced rate":

  • Sydney - Melbourne
  • Sydney -Brisbane
  • Sydney - Gold Coast
  • Melbourne - Sydney
  • Melbourne - Brisbane
  • Melbourne - Canberra
  • Melbourne - Perth
  • Melbourne - Adelaide
  • Brisbane - Sydney
  • Brisbane - Cairns
  • Brisbane - Melbourne
  • Brisbane - Mackay
  • Brisbane - Perth
  • Brisbane – Rockhampton
  • Brisbane - Townsville
  • Perth - Melbourne
  • Perth - Brisbane
  • Perth - Broome

All Virgin Australia flights to the following destinations will be suspended from midnight 27 March through to 14 June 2020:

  • Albury
  • Alice Springs
  • Ayers Rock (Uluru)
  • Ballina Byron
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Cloncurry
  • Darwin
  • Emerald
  • Harvey Bay
  • Hamilton Island
  • Hobart
  • Mount Isa
  • Launceston
  • Mildura
  • Sunshine Coast (Maroochydore)
  • Newcastle
  • Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine)
  • Port Macquarie*
  • Tamworth

(For Port Macquarie, Virgin Australia says it will continue to codeshare on Brisbane-Port Macquarie as well as routes between Brisbane and Bundaberg, and Gladstone operated by Alliance Airlines.)

However, the airline still insists on offering travel credit against future flights rather than the option of a cash refund.

Virgin Australia has also closed all of its airport lounges, and extended the Velocity Frequent Flyer status of all its Silver, Gold and Platinum members by one year.

"Virgin will be back, but different"

As previously reported, Virgin Australia will temporarily suspend all international flying from 30 March to 14 June 2020, while operating a reduced international schedule between now and 30 March “to enable Australians to return home and visitors to return to their point of origin.”

The cuts to flying will also mean cuts to employment, with approximately 8,000 of the airline’s 10,000-strong workforce stood down until at least the end of May.

"There has never been a travel environment in Australia as restricted as the one we see today and the extraordinary steps we’ve taken have been in response to the federal and state governments’ latest travel advice,” noted Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah.

“We are now facing what will be the biggest grounding of aircraft in this country’s history. From the end of this week, we will begin repositioning and grounding more than 125 aircraft in our fleet, suspending almost all our domestic and international flying until at least the middle of June.”

Scurrah added that while he plans to return Virgin Australia to the skies “as soon as it’s viable to do so, I am mindful that how we operate today may look different when we get to the other side of this crisis."

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 533

I think what the Qantas CEO has said about Virgin is Very unAustralian and I think it might have back fired.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Dec 2014

Total posts 44

I fail to see what is “unAustralian” about advocating that foreign owned airlines should not be given preference over Australian owned airlines when it comes to handing out Australian taxpayers money.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 55

Ozshanel it's not quite as simple as that, though: Virgin might be predominantly "foreign-owned", but its 10,000 workers are Aussie. Should those workers be disadvantaged compared with others, simply because their employer is foreign-owned? Are you really saying that the government should prioritise giving taxpayer-funded relief to companies operating in Australia that have no foreign ownership, no matter what that company's role is and no matter how many Australians they employ?

15 Nov 2017

Total posts 2

Australian Owned? Qantas is up to 49% foreign owned. And both Qantas and VA employ thousands of Australian workers.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 186

Up Up and away, I totally agree - those comments didn't display any of the traits that come with the “Spirit of Australia”, I to believe they have backfired.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 186

Qantas isn't 100% Australian owned, it's up 49% foreign owned, recently it was over 50% foreign owned. So ownership levels doesn't drive decisions, the service it provides to the country, economy, government and the fact it's a major Australian employer is what matters.

If it's about ownership, we better cancel the $50b submarine contact and get to the drawing boards in SA for a home grown submarine, and as for the aircraft airlines operate we better break out the GAF - NOMAD factory to start making only 100% Australian owned subs and planes.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 369

I'm sure if we could look through Australian Custodian shareholdings, we might, perhaps, find that Qantas is 60% - 70% foreign-owned. Compliance with this test is left largely in the hands of Qantas to self-report. What's more interesting is that - today - no-body REALLY and TRULY cares if Qantas has that level of foreign ownership provided AJ and his team keep global-HQ in Mascot.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 157

Even as a QF flyer, the last thing I want is for a monopoly in Australian skies, which would be detrimental to all.

While VA had management issues, QF has had its fair share too, and VA were definitely on the right track before COVID came along.

09 Dec 2016

Total posts 16

Re Adelaide - it is on your list suggesting they will maintain Melbourne to Adelaide flights

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 167

Interesting on the Tiger Air website:

"Customers who choose not to travel forward and any customers with an existing Tigerair Flight Credit will be provided with a Virgin Australia Travel Credit. We are working through the process of transferring Tigerair Flight Credits to a Virgin Australia Flight Credit"

An indication on the future of Tiger?

qf

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 7

I hope VA manage to get through this situation. I must confess, I am not a VA passenger but I want to see them succeed going forward. I do not like the foreign ownership they have, particularly governments of United Arab Emirates via ETIHAD, and Singapore via Singapore Airlines, but my thoughts are to the Australians that work for VA. VA do a reasonably good job in the market with their product, however, as a business, they are not that good. Businesses need to plan and succeed in difficult times. They need proper management and decisions and planning. Ever since they moved from Virgin Blue to what they are today, they have had difficulties. At the end of the day, you need to have a business that is succeeding and moving forward, and I do not mean with their product offering, but their financials, their business structure their trading operation, and this is not the best. Just look at their financials going back and currently. Yes this viral thing is not helping, but VA as a business has significant issues and has had even before this viral thing started. I hope they succeed, and I will fly with them to offer support, I will play my part, but they will not return as we know them at present. Get rid of Tiger, consolidate, change name so they do not have to pay Branson for using the Virgin name, codeshare only on International flights with the likes of DL, SQ etc and build a comprehensive domestic operation.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 259

@freedomflyer. It could be argued that they could let VA go in "administration" and new investors pick up the assets (737s and slots at SYD and MEL) to form a bare-bones domestic operation.

Saying that, none of VA's 'owners' are in a financial capacity to 'take over'. Most of them were already in financial trouble and bankrupt (HNA, Etihad) before COVID-19 hit, and SQ are likely to be asking their government (SQ's owners through Temasek Holdings) for a bailout, since SQ have also hit financial trouble since the crisis (to be fair - through no fault of their own).

All I can say here is good luck to all aviation industry employees (especially VA), and hope that VA survives this as a smaller operation with a more clearer ownership structure (even if it means the Australian Government taking a stake in BOTH QF and VA - if we are going to be fair here).

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 533

In the Great American Depression there was only one company that didn't need government support to survive "Otis Elevators" I pray we don't come to that, and that's why I push help one another.

QFF

17 May 2017

Total posts 6

I'm sure Otis had their ups and downs

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 369

To 'freedomflyer' suggestion above:

* Australian Eagle Airlines

* Wedge-tail Airlines

* Wedgie Airlines

Couldn't agree more, regardless of VA's ownership, they almost overwhelming employ Australian workers on-shore.

I don't think any airline is going to emerge from this crises unscathed, lots of rebrands, unbundling of product and a fair bit of consolidation, so perhaps the Tiger brand will disappear for good and Virgin Blue will fly again.

10 Apr 2016

Total posts 45

If you read between the lines we may neer see TigerAir again.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 6

Hi David,

I know it is technically not a domestic flight (it's operated as one) but any update on Christmas Island (I am only asking due to work requirements). Virgin won't answer my question. Thought I would ask on here.

Cheers

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 808

These are truly crazy times. There are less domestic flights than even during the pilots' strike. I feel so sorry for the crews and support staff stood down throughout all airlines and everywhere else. I pray this is over soon; it is just so sad. Stay strong!

23 Jan 2020

Total posts 2

Virgin are actually continuing to operate many more commercial flights than the list you have posted here. The list you have sourced is only the routes which have had frequencies reduced. For example, Perth to Kalgoorlie, Port Hedland, Newman and Karratha will continue to operate at standard frequency. I'm assuming there will be similar routes in other states as well?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 259

According to the Financial Post (March 25), VA's part-owner SQ has halted trading. Possibly in preparation for a government bailout themselves due to SQ's current financial situation.
As everyone else knows, HNA, Etihad etc were basically already "bankrupt in administration" and have been selling their assets before the COVID-19 crisis.

As of current there is no "white knight" situation for VA, they would have to get through this themselves, or prepare to file for administration.

The other alternative is that 'If' the Australian Government funds them, it would have to be similar to the old "two-airline" policy where both QF and VA groups gets the funds (even if it means partially nationalising both).


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