Betting on an uptick in domestic air travel, Virgin Australia is adding nine Boeing 737-800s to its fleet. The Brisbane-based airline believes that as more people get vaccinated for COVID-19 there will be a surge in domestic air traffic.
The first of the leased aircraft is scheduled to arrive in October, followed by the rapid delivery of the remaining aircraft as Australia moves into the southern hemisphere summer. At the latest, all nine new planes are expected to be at Virgin’s Brisbane hub by February 2022.
Virgin Australia believes the demand is there
When speaking about the decision in a company statement released on August 27, 2021, Virgin Australia boss Jayne Hrdlicka said the move reflected Virgin Australia’s commitment to its customers.
“Airlines around the world have had to bend and stretch over the past 18 months as our fleets, teams, and wider operations have responded to unprecedented border restrictions and demand volatility,” Ms. Hrdlicka said on Friday.
“But we at Virgin Australia are crystal clear that the underlying consumer desire for travel is strong.”
The move to increase its fleet comes as millions of Australian’s continue to put up with strict lockdowns and an interstate travel ban due to rising COVID-19 infections. Ms. Hrdlicka said that by preparing now, Virgin Australia would be well placed to meet the need of Australians wanting to travel once the current restrictions are eased.
“These extra aircraft are an important part of our planning and ensure we’re ready to ramp up flying and meet the pent-up demand for domestic travel as soon as the opportunity presents itself,” she said.
Virgin Australia is betting big
Virgin Australia is putting its faith in domestic recovery. Whether or not the gamble will pay off depends very much on how Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government handles the reopening with state governors.
The Melbourne-based Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity has set guidelines on how Australia should reopen. The official target for Australian’s to come out of lockdown and reopen state borders is when 70% of Australia’s population has been fully vaccinated.
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New Zealand is especially cautious
Rival Australian airline Qantas said yesterday that it believed that New Zealand was especially cautious after suspending the trans-Tasman bubble because of the Delta variant of the virus.
Last month, New Zealand stopped flights arriving from Australia, citing an increased threat from COVID-19 variants. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern initially said that the Australia-New Zealand bubble would be suspended for eight weeks, with a review scheduled for September.
Qantas has written off travel between Australia and New Zealand until Christmas in an email to its frequent flyers. By then, the vaccination rates in both countries should be substantially higher.
“Based on the current vaccination projection rates and the Australian government’s plan for reopening borders, we are preparing for Qantas and Jetstar international flights to resume … from mid-December 2021 between Australia and New Zealand,” the Qantas email said.
Qantas also gives the same timeline to other international flights, including those to the United States, where a large percentage of the population is now fully vaccinated.
Is Virgin Australia over-optimistic about a domestic Australian recovery? Please tell us what you think in the comments.