Virgin Australia freezes international flights

Coronavirus pandemic travel downturn sees Australian airline ditch overseas services

Virgin Australia has announced the temporary suspension of all international flights effective 30 March through 14 June, 2020 due to the escalating travel crisis as a result of COVID-19. The airline will ground its entire fleet of six wide-body aircraft (five Boeing 777s and one Airbus A330) and 14 narrow-body workhorse Boeing 737s.

Virgin Australia CEO and Managing Director Paul Scurrah said this morning that the global aviation industry is in turmoil and that “significant action” was necessary.

“We have responded by making tough decisions which include reducing our domestic capacity and phasing in the temporary suspension of international flying for a period of two and a half months,” Scurrah said.

The pause on Virgin Australia’s international flights comes in response to the Australian Government tough-love strategy on incoming arrivals requiring a 14-day self-isolation period. Last night DFAT also recommended that Australian travellers abroad who wished to return home should do so as soon as possible.

Virgin will suspend its Melbourne-Los Angeles service from 20 March and has postponed its inaugural Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda and Melbourne-Denpasar (Bali) routes that were planned to commence from 29 March.

The airline will offer a slimmed-down international operation from now until 29 March in order to assist Australian travellers return home and for visitors to make their way back to their point of origin.

Domestically, the carrier will reduce capacity by some 50% until 14 June, grounding a further 20 737s, six A320s, two ATR and five Airbus A330s. Affected routes and schedules will be rolled out over the next week.

Flexible booking options are available to affected Virgin Australia passengers who wish to change their travel dates due to COVID-19. A dedicated customer care hub is available on the airline’s website to deal with the expected surge in customer queries and travel changes.

“The changes announced today will affect our people and we are having constructive discussions with team members and relevant unions,” Scurrah added. “Wherever possible, we will aim to avoid redundancies by fast-tracking measures such as the use of accrued leave, leave without pay and redeployment.”

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia’s transpacific alliance partner, Delta Air Lines, has paused its daily service between Los Angeles and Sydney, with effect from 18 March until 11 April.

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