Virgin Australia resumes Sydney-Canberra flights

Virgin is back on the capital city corridor – well, sort of – through an alliance with ACT-based Link Airways.

By David Flynn, December 2 2021
Virgin Australia resumes Sydney-Canberra flights

Virgin Australia plans to restart flights between Sydney and Canberra on January 30 2022, some 21 months since the route was paused at the outset of the Covid pandemic.

But Virgin won't be doing the actual flying – instead, that will fall to ACT-based Link Airways and its nimble Saab 340 B Plus turboprops under a newly-minted regional partnership.

Link's all-economy Saab 340 darts between Sydney and Canberra.
Link's all-economy Saab 340 darts between Sydney and Canberra.

Link will run "up to 9 flights per day on weekdays", with those bookable through the Virgin Australia website.

The all-economy Saab 340s have 34 seats in a 2-1 layout (those solo seats are often the first to be booked) and all passengers will earn Velocity Points and Status Credits.

The Saab's narrow cabin means each row has a single seat, with a pair across the aisle.
The Saab's narrow cabin means each row has a single seat, with a pair across the aisle.

In addition, lounge-worthy passengers – such as those with Velocity Gold or Platinum status or Virgin Australia Lounge membership – will have access to Virgin's Sydney and Canberra airport lounges.

Virgin says the Link Airways alliance will extend its reach "into markets like Sydney-Canberra" that its own Boeing 737s "cannot serve effectively."

"As the airline quickly ramps up capacity across domestic and short-haul international services it will continue to evaluate new destinations and opportunities to connect Australia."

Smile, you'll still earn Velocity Points and Status Credits when flying with Link.
Smile, you'll still earn Velocity Points and Status Credits when flying with Link.

Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said the airline's relaunch of Sydney-Canberra flights would be "welcome news for our corporate and leisure customers and particularly those in the government sector who regularly travel to and from Sydney."

It will also turn the route into a three-horse race against nemesis Qantas and new challenger Regional Express, a competition which should spark a new round of low-price fares.

QFP

22 Jan 2013

Total posts 84

Hello all,

Fares are completely uncompetitive at the moment, mostly above $200ow. Until the pencil gets sharpened, I’m sticking with REX. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 728

This is the best game of checkers I've ever seen, I know a few people that were darting around border restrictions using Link from Wollongong to Brisbane etc. I'm waiting for one of the airlines to bring in a couple of light jets for a more personable experience, single pilot, low cost like an air taxi. Fly into Sydney on VA or Qantas, stay on the apron via car transport to a light jet, fly off to Camden, Wollongong, Bathurst Airport.  

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1266

@flyman - I see $119, on the first Monday 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2011

Total posts 60

Is it odd that the country's capital city is predominantly serviced by turbo props, let alone Saab340s from the country's largest city? 

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 387

Definitely seems odd when you put it that way! But if there were enough passengers for a Boeing 737 on such a short route, Qantas would be all over it. Virgin used to fly E190s and I always thought they were a good fit for the route. And in terms of the actual market, apart from some spikes when politicians, lobbyists etc fly in and out around the 'Parliamentary calendar' there's not a lot of movement on a daily basis. And if they ever got serious about fast rail between Sydney and Canberra that would almost be the death of this route for airlines.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2011

Total posts 60

Fully fully agree. Totally get the market size and assigning the right size aircraft to cater for that. Just seems a bit funny. I think there is an argument for appearance here though. e.g. people are more likely to catch light rail than a bus, equally a jet over a turbo prop (particularly a noisy old one). 

I know this is getting quite off topic, but with the fast vs high speed train argument, a new high speed train is much more likely to attract riders than a simple upgrade to existing infrastructure that provides only minimal improvements. Not sure that I entirely agree with the lack of economics as suggested by Tommygun below. Something like high speed rail (or god forbid some type of innovative technology) would build the entire corridor. It would remove the need to live in overpriced real estate markets etc just as one benefit. A lot of long term benefits that will only cost significantly more once they are eventually implemented in 20, 30, 50, years time. 

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 510

Going even more off track from the topic (pun intended) is whether we are going to be good/mature enough to run a high speed train (HST) system. 

I am often surprised how little interruption (we know of) high speed train system were in Europe in terms of accident or potential risks/deaths to trespassers not just people but also animals.

Or maybe it is not mentioned that much in the local (European) press?

The other issue of HST is the frequency and patronage which meant it need to stop in certain big cities like Liverpool or Campbelltown towards Sydney or Goulburn (for people who don’t want to pay Canberra property prices) to pick up some volume without increasing the travel time too much

At the end, I better mention something about this new article, Looks like colour matching of Link’s uniform and interior of their Saab equipment is similar to REx and it may confuse their pax who may not think they are flying with Virgin at all. Unless the pax are using Sydney as a transit for other destinations (hence able to stay in the VA ecosystem and points etc), there may not be any reason to fly VA unless for price point alone.

Again REx need to hurry up if they intend to set in place any loyalty program other than the paid business club

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 141

There's "fast" rail and there's "high-speed" rail: a tilt train on standard tracks is fast e.g. Qld Brisbane to Cairns, a TGV/ICE/Shinkansen on new tracks is high speed. Canberra-Sydney is theoretically perfect for high-speed, but the economic case does not work for the same reasons the airlines can't make money out of 737's on that run. Just not enough travellers.

06 Feb 2014

Total posts 24

I think it is less about not enough travellers (A lot of of people catch Murray's/greyhound buses to and from Sydney everyday, alongside those that fly/train at the moment), and more about the horrendous alignments and state of the rail link.

You can't even get to a 'fast rail' solution of say 2 hours each way (which would capture a significant chunk of the market) without huge investment sadly. In particular the alignment between Goulburn and Canberra is utterly horrendous.

The only way we will ever see proper high speed rail in this country is if we have a government with genuine vision, that can see the value of a project well beyond the pure economics of it - i.e. a nation building project. We used to see it regularly, but never anymore. The NBN circus - which while maybe not the best delivery model, was a good idea to begin with and had some characteristics of a nation building project, shows exactly why no government will go anywhere near it.

Such a shame - in a time of cheap $, from a financial perspective there is no better time to build it. And in Australia, given population numbers, I think it could in theory be designed as both a high speed passenger line, and a high speed freight line (especially at night). There is all the ingredients for a project in there, but it is always going to be hard to make it stack up economically. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 185

Agree with tommygun - if it took Sydney 2 years and $3bn to build a light rail line, imagine how much a HSR rail anywhere will cost.  When the  the iron ore mines in WA were opened, they had teams of Kiwi track builders who were the best in the world at the time, and could lay 1 mile of track in a day, and the same tracks are still carrying millions of tons of ore to this day. That will never happen again.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Feb 2020

Total posts 28

Virgin flew Aerospatiales on that route pre COVID; have been flying that route for many years and never really liked them I’ve always found the quickest and easiest flights are on the Qantas Dash for that short flight with quick boarding and a short taxi. Not as slow as the Aerospatiales, and with no time wasted boarding and taxiing with the QF717. Be interesting see how the SAAB compares.

06 Feb 2014

Total posts 24

Glad to see Virgin has achieved some form of 'product' for the CBR-SYD network. I actually don't think its a bad alignment between the two companies, and wonder if they are exploring some broader link up perhaps too - LINK has some interesting connections in its network, and I've flown with them a couple of times and found the experience perfectly decent (but I don't have high expectations really - get up down and get me there near the right time and I'm usually relatively happy - for short hops anyway).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 185

Sorry mcs_095 - it won't be a 'nation building exercise', it'll be a 'golden triangle building exercise'.  The only way the rest of the nation will be involved is to pay the enourmous bill that would result. 

06 Feb 2014

Total posts 24

This is not a criticism of your comment - your entitled to your view.

But your comment exactly illustrates why generally it is so hard now to do any really big government megaprojects in Australia. The obsession with 'what do I get out of it' scuttles almost anything that is a big picture project - a default position of a project being unworthy because one doesn't see immediate direct results from it.

Again, not a criticism of your view, but more the lens everything seems to be viewed through these days. It used to be different. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 185

No offence taken, and nation building projects sound good, but this one is just not viable.  If you look at the land mass of Australia with a population of 25m, and compare it to Western Europe which is equivelent in size to Australia.   WE at any given time has 330M++ people there, and their various modes of HSR are a viable concern.  Ours can't and never will be.  You can make a similar comparison between us and the US - same size but they have 10 times our population as well.   Another example you also should look at, is the take-up, as well as the cost of the fares for another nation building exercise - the Adelaide to Darwin rail line. 

06 Feb 2014

Total posts 24

To be fair Darwin - Alice was never built primarily as a passenger line, so fares on that aren't a good comparator as it is only a luxury train provider operating. No idea about how freight costs and usage of the line is these days (the real reason to extend it). But the cost of building it was well over budget (no suprise to be honest given the terrain it was built through), and it like the NBN highlights the perils of big projects.

I'm not saying HSR will ever happen (it won't - needed to happen in the 90s if it was ever going to happen), much for the reasons you suggest. But there are pockets where in theory HSR could work, that in time could be expanded upon, and I do think a proper high speed mixed line could somewhat improve the business case. Unlikely to make it stack up sure, but we are headed for a very different world if net zero is going to be a reality. 

All I think is we are pissing up gazillions up the wall year after year on utter nonsense from government (just how much of jobkeeper - a worthy scheme, but dreadfully designed) ultimately ended up as a transfer directly from taxpayer to shareholder/major companies that ultimately didn't need it. That figure is likely to be in the tens of billions. Not for one minute saying it wasn't a scheme needed - but it cost a shedload more than it should of, yet most people don't blink an eye.

Would prefer to see more money being put into genuine big projects.

Anyway, that's way too much off topic, but good to have a decent conversation about these things :) 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 185

Well put…


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