Sudden new travel restrictions between the Australian state of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia may dramatically disrupt local carriers Virgin Australia and Qantas. Victorians cannot travel to other areas of Australia from tomorrow midnight (although authorities have effectively restricted the border today).
The sudden spike in cases
Victoria is experiencing a second wave of coronavirus cases after containment failed at a local quarantine hotel, and infections spread in local suburbs. Since the beginning of the month, the city has seen rising infection numbers in triple digits with no end to the curve in sight. Cases have now surpassed the initial infection rates when the virus first landed on Victoria’s shores.
This will have an impact on air travel, although the full scale is still unknown at this time.
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Before the coronavirus, the route between Sydney and Melbourne was the second most popular air route in the world, with 54,519 flights a year. It is a significant breadwinner route for both Qantas and Virgin Australia, who fight over lucrative business traveler contracts that make up the bulk of their domestic operations.
Alas, when the virus hit the nation in April, air travel across the country was grounded. This action, while saving lives, delivered a death blow to ‘local’ airline Virgin Australia. This forced the carrier into voluntary administration to shore up debt.
Apart from essential connection fights sponsored by the government, and infrequent cargo operations, the skies above Australia were empty. After a successful lockdown and hibernation of the nation, virus numbers fell and aircraft returned. Airlines reconnected major cities, and then slowly rolled out operations to regional areas.
However, with the escalation overnight of this latest second wave hitting Victoria, it looks as if skies above Melbourne might yet again be empty. This will cut off lucrative revenues for Qantas and strand many passengers in both Sydney and Melbourne.
What does this mean for Qantas?
Simple Flying reached out to Qantas when the news broke for the following statement:
“Qantas and Jetstar are significantly reducing flights to and from Melbourne following the decision to close the New South Wales border. We’ll continue to operate limited flights for essential travel only.”
Qantas has also indicated that this reduced operation will last until August 1st. In the meantime, it will still operate multiple flights a day for essential workers.
This reduction in services also affects flights from Melbourne to regional areas like Byron Bay in far north New South Wales (NSW). The airline closed its statement saying that it will contact affected customers.
Some other restrictions that apply to Victorians flying to NSW include a mandatory two-week isolated quarantine (there are no restrictions for those flying into Victoria from NSW).
South Australia has also moved to block travel from Victoria, which will undoubtedly affect air travel between Melbourne and Adelaide.
While Melbourne is a lucrative destination for Qantas’ pocketbook, it may not hamper its bottom line as badly as the earlier lockdown. There are other routes in Australia still open or due to open, which could provide a lifeline.
What does this mean for passengers on Virgin Australia?
While still undergoing administration, the airline is operating services across Australia. Simple Flying reached out to Virgin Australia for this statement regarding today’s events.
“We’re reviewing our flight schedule for services between Sydney and Melbourne following the State Governments’ decision to close the border between Victoria and New South Wales from 12:01am on Wednesday, 8 July. We’ll contact passengers directly if there’s any change to their flight.
For passengers who can no longer travel or who wish to change their booking, Virgin Australia is waiving applicable change fees for bookings made between 21 April 2020 and 30 September 2020.”
Have you been affected? Let us know in the comments.