Virgin Australia has joined the list of airlines intending to resume overseas flights once the country's borders reopen, with Virgin now selling tickets on daily flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Fiji's Nadi Airport in late December.
The airline's website lists daily Sydney-Nadi and Brisbane-Nadi flights from December 23 2021, with Melbourne-Nadi joining them on December 24 – although Executive Traveller understands Virgin is likely to brings those forward to start mid-December, when more people are looking to jet away for the Christmas holiday period
A Virgin Australia spokesperson said there's been "a strong uplift in Fiji bookings since Friday, following the Federal Government's announcement on international borders. Traffic to our website and subsequent Fiji flight searches have increased over 250%."
Qantas and Fiji Airways have also scheduled flights from December as the island nation gears up for the return of international tourists, which in pre-pandemic times saw Australia count for more than 50% of all visitors.
Virgin's Fiji-bound flyers are expected to have access to the airport lounges at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane previously managed by No1 Lounges but since taken over by Swissport and due to be rebranded to join the Aspire network.
The airline's flight to Fiji make good on the promise of CEO Jayne Hrdlicka, who in April remarked that "short-haul international" services such as the Pacific Islands would come back "soon as the borders open."
The airline has been forced to postpone its planned return to New Zealand across September-December, which saw flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Queenstown, due to the ongoing suspension of trans-Tasman travel.
Putting Fiji back on the timetable also marks Virgin's first international flights following its collapse in April 2020 and subsequent rescue by US-based Bain Capital in September that year.
Although Virgin has effectively been a domestic-only airline for the past 18 months, it has always maintained that a return to overseas flying was on the cards, initially on short-range routes to the likes of New Zealand, Fiji and Bali.
These are all within the range of Virgin's workhorse Boeing 737 fleet, although destinations such as Asia and the USA will remain out of reach until the airline obtains new long-range jets to replace the Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s ditched by Bain.
Virgin is now rebuilding its Boeing 737 fleet, with nine more jets – most of which were formerly flown by Singapore Airlines' regional arm SilkAir – joining the fleet across October 2021-February 2022.