***UPDATE: 03/25 @ 00:05 UTC – Added commentary from Virgin Australia CEO***
Virgin Australia has shut down 90% of all of its domestic flights and is standing down over 8,000 workers as the airline enters hibernation to get over the coronavirus. This will be an increase from the previous 50% to 90%. This cut also includes its low-cost carrier arm Tigerair, which will be grounded immediately.
What are the details?
Virgin Australia has been battling the effects of the virus and the lockdown in Australia, as the government moves to stage two restrictions. As part of stage two, Australias are highly recommended to defer all domestic travel and international travel is banned, meaning Australian’s are no longer permitted to leave the country. With such demanding restrictions in place, the airline has been forced to look at cutting its capacity across the board.
But these new cuts are significantly different and much deeper to the airlines’ vast network. There are two key parts:
- 17 destinations across Australia will still have at least one daily flight to ensure the transport of essential personnel and medical supplies.
- 19 destinations across Australia will be suspended from 27 March to 14 June 2020.
“We are now facing what will be the biggest grounding of aircraft in this country’s history. From the end of this week, we will begin repositioning and grounding more than 125 aircraft in our fleet, suspending almost all our domestic and international flying until at least the middle of June.” – Virgin Australia CEO and Managing Director Paul Scurrah in a press statement supplied to Simple Flying.
Which destinations have been cut?
The following destinations have been cut by the carrier, as per a press release on its website.
- Alice Springs
- Ayers Rock (Uluru)
- Ballina Byron
- Coffs Harbour
- Hervey Bay
- Hamilton Island
- Mount Isa
- Sunshine Coast (Maroochydore)
- Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine)
- Port Macquarie*
The airline did state that there were some code-share flights with Alliance Airlines to Port Macquarie still operating.
These cuts are very significant as it does mean that some cities along the coast and inland Australia will no longer have access to the Virgin Network. And some of these localities are not small either, with Hobart, Newcastle and Alice Springs among the list.
What about Tigerair?
Virgin has also decided to ground its entire fleet of Tigerair Airbus A320s for the foreseeable future, in an effort to reduce costs. These aircraft operate incredibly cheap services up and down the coast of Australia and will be the first to fall when reducing expenditure.
The human cost
Additionally, because of these huge cuts across the board, the airline has decided to stand down around 8,000 staff and crew members out of its 10,000 workforce.
This is devastating, as now there will be many more trained and talented people out of work for months on end with no choice but to seek government support. It is not clear when they will be asked back to work but Virgin Australia has said it will reserve their places.
“I am only too aware of how much our people are hurting at the moment and these very tough decisions have weighed heavily on me and my leadership team. We are talking to our teams and we are working hard to do what we can to protect jobs and extend payments for as long as possible.”
During the stand-down, team members will be able to access accrued leave entitlements, but for many team members, leave without pay will be inevitable. Virgin Australia is working with more than 25 partners to identify short and long-term redeployment options.
What to do if you are affected by these cuts?
If you are affected by these capacity cuts, then we suggest that you follow the instructions on the Virgin Australia website.
Virgin Australia guests who are booked to travel between now and 30 June 2020 are encouraged to visit the Virgin Australia customer care hub at virginaustralia.com to request a travel credit online or obtain more information about their options.
Virgin Australia and Tigerair Australia guests who are booked to travel between now and 31 March 2020 are being provided flexibility to change their flight to a Virgin Australia service departing on or before 27 March with change fees and fare difference waived. This can be done via our Guest Contact Centres or at the airport, subject to availability.
In a small bonus, it seems that Tigerair customers who want a travel credit will be able to use it on board Virgin Australia instead.
“We plan to return Tigerair Australia and Virgin Australia to the skies as soon as it’s viable to do so, however, I am mindful that how we operate today may look different when we get to the other side of this crisis.”
What do you think of this news? Will Virgin Australia survive? Let us know in the comments.