Virgin Australia pushes back New Zealand flights to June

Virgin will remain a domestic-only airline until at least the middle of this year.

By David Flynn, February 2 2021
Virgin Australia pushes back New Zealand flights to June

Virgin Australia will delay the restart of flights to New Zealand until at least June, due to ongoing uncertainty over the prospects of a trans-Tasman travel bubble. The airline's services to Bali and other Pacific Islands are also being pushed back.

Hopes for quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand have been continually dashed by sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks across Australia.

While New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently said she would "continue to pursue" a travel bubble with Australia, "it does look increasingly difficult at a country-by-country level," she said, adding “we haven’t ruled out the possibility of state-by-state."

Virgin says all short-haul international services will be closed at least 19 June 2021, and it will contact would-be travellers booked on those flights.

"Because of ongoing international border closures and Government restrictions, it is likely to be an extended period of time before we’re able to appropriately resume short-haul international flying," a Virgin Australia spokesman said.

"We are hopeful that countries will develop safe-travel zones but need to be realistic considering operational limitations and the uncertainty around frameworks that support the sensible opening and closing of borders."

The year-long lockout

Virgin had previously scheduled flights to New Zealand from March 28 – almost a year since they were scrubbed in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and a month before the airline itself collapsed into administration.

Now rebooted under the ownership of US-based Bain Capital but without its long-range Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 jets, Virgin shrunk its international footprint to a handful of nearby destinations within reach of its Boeing 737s.

Virgin Australia will now continue with its domestic-only focus while local air travel slowly rebuilds, although remaining flexible on a restart schedule for New Zealand.

The coming months will see Virgin fully reactivate its lounge network with the re-opening of lounges at Canberra and Adelaide.

Meanwhile, Qantas continues to sell flights to New Zealand, although the bulk of its international network is slated for an optimistic restart from July 1, 2021.

The Federal Government has been critical of Qantas' move, with Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack saying "decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian Government."

"International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians."

Also read: Widespread international travel unlikely for Australians in 2021?

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.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 996

We should probably congratulate VA on being upfront and not attempting to sell flights that they don't believe they have a realistic chance of operating.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 619

Not sure the point as they HAVE been selling these flights already. 

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 214

Very sensible move by VA. People who really MUST fly between AU and NZ still have Qantas and Air New Zealand, but there's just not enough confidence right now that everything will change by the end of March. I think a mid-year 'bubble' is more likely, it'll be especially great if we get this for the ski season, but Virgin is being realistic and knows that you simply can't plan too far ahead these days.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 374

With borders often slamming shut because of a single case, whether it be domestic or trans-tasman, I won't be heading anywhere anytime soon. It's just not worth the risk to get stranded.

seriously ? Where do you live WA ?

07 May 2020

Total posts 151

"International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians." Well that is not going to be at least until sometime in 2022. Even vaccinated travellers will pose a risk of transmission so borders will not open up without quarantine for them too. Don't kid yourself thinking anything else.

well kiwis are flying in now with no quarantine. Where do you get 2022 from ? Did you just make it up ? No one knows.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 676

.. er. but Kiwi's DO still face quarantine when they fly back home to New Zealand. regular flyer.

Sure, nobody knows right now - and it is likely to stay that way for a while. But look at it this way - it will undoubtedly take 6 months absolute minimum before a sizeable number of New Zealanders will be vaccinated  ... and possibly up to 8 months or more for Australians. 

2022 might offend your senses, but it is a reasonably conservative estimate in most people's minds.

this is the problem, kiwis fly here & don't leave !!! (don't mention the all blacks losing)

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 996

You're right, no-one knows when quarantine free international travel will be a thing but there are some things we do know.  We know your frequent exhortations that things will be back to normal within months are delusional.  We know that QF are, at best, being wildly optimistic selling international flights from 1/7 and, at worst, they are potentially breaching the TPA and using consumers as a source of interest-free finance.  We now know that the new VA is trying to run a real business in a difficult climate and a real business is upfront and honest in saying anything approaching normal Trans-Tasman and Pacific flying won't happen in H1 2021.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 485

reeves, a lot of sources are telling us things may start to move on international travel starting in July (not just ex Australia, but globally), but I agree it is unreasonable to make any bookings until AFTER normality has resumed, whenever that is. We've seen before how vulnerable travel bubble agreements can be, with the Singapore-Hong Kong one postponed one day before it was due to launch and now seems to be scrapped indefinitely.

It's almost a miracle that NZ to AUS one way travel quarantine free has been permitted yet here we are.

In any case, I think we will probably know roughly a month before normality resumes about when flights will actually resume and that will signal the time to start booking tickets on the first flights.

My personal opinion however is to wait until the flights have already begun BEFORE booking travel unless it is absolutely essential to be on one of the first flights. This is the only sensible thing to do, to avoid wasting money and disappointment. So whether that occurs in July, October, 2022, 2025 or even later (the latter two might seem a bit far fetched, though who knows), remains to be seen.

Everyone likes making advance plans, but the best thing to do right now is be a procrastinator and make last minute bookings, unless you want to get burned. These are extraordinary times.

I remain cautiously optimistic, but not quite as overly optimistic as regular flyer. I think there definitely won't be any normal travel resumption before July 1, with the possible exception of additional travel bubbles, though at this point it seems unlikely we'll be seeing anything more than the possible reciprocation of the travel bubble that Kiwis enjoy, to Aussies flying in the other direction. I don't see any other countries being added before July at the earliest. Not even Fiji or Vanuatu or places like that.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 248

Well done for Virgin not selling flights they have a high chance of not operating. If the bubble opens they can add flights but at least this way they aren’t using fake flights as a cash grabbing mechanism like some other competitors.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 619

Umm they have been selling these flights. So haven’t they been cash grabbing too? Difference is now they are pulling them. 

01 Mar 2019

Total posts 8

Totally understandable with what’s going here in particular WA ,that’s shuts its border at the drop of a hat  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Mar 2018

Total posts 16

Its not going to be for a couple of years , I believe Qantas is on the mark with its 2024 push. Borders shut is the new norm for at least another 4 years

If borders shut for another 4 years, there will be no airlines left.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 485

I agree, I don't see any airlines lasting until 2024. I think the second half of this year will start to see a gradual return to normality, but it won't be until well into 2022 that we start seeing what could constitute "normal" flight schedules albeit reduced frequencies compared to 2019/early 2020 levels, though this will depend on the airline/destination pair.

Also, I don't think Qantas said anything about not flying until 2024. That date would be the estimate for when 2019 like travel levels could resume, which is probably about right. Qantas at this point still intends on returning to the skies in July, though this could be pushed back until October or later. I think we'll know about a month before flights actually resume, whenever that happens to be.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Mar 2018

Total posts 16

Qf said in the Executive traveller article no London until 2024

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 485

It's hard to keep up with all the contradictory news stories being published almost daily. In my opinion, it is highly unlikely Qantas would wait until 2024 to return to London. The article probably said "may", which implies there is a possibility it could take that long, but it's more likely that flights to London will return towards the end of the year or early/mid 2022 at the latest.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 339

Qantas has never said "no London until 2024". There was an article yesterday where Alan Joyce suggested the non-stop Project Sunrise flights to London among other destinations might now start in 2024, but the Perth-London and Sydney-Singapore-London flights are now on the schedule and being sold from July this year, as has extensively been reported. Personally I doubt they will take off in July, London might be closer to the end of the year, it will depend on vaccination rollout in AU and the UK.

05 Sep 2017

Total posts 5

Some people may not like the guy but  I think Allan Joyce know his stuff and is a well-informed person.  If he's betting to fly from July is because he know something will start moving in or around that date. 

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 339

Agreed, people let their personal dislike for somebody stop them from considering they know their stuff.

Joyce knows if Qantas don't start flying internationally by around July, their will be no Qantas Int left, except for maybe some flights that can be operated by B738s from domestic fleet.

Comments on this article are now closed