Nearly 18 months after axing all its international flights, Virgin Australia is resuming some short-haul international flying over the next six months. The airline is quietly spreading its wings and has scheduled into its timetables flights to Bali and Fiji.
It is increasingly likely Australia will allow its vaccinated citizens to start travelling to selected countries from mid-December (December 17 is shaping up as the potential restart date). Accordingly, airlines are beginning to reschedule flights on specific routes. That includes Virgin Australia, who spectacularly quit international flying in the first half of 2020.
Virgin Australia books in a March restart date for Bali
Sunday, March 27, is shaping up as a big day for Virgin Australia, with flights scheduled to resume to Bali from three Australian cities. On that Sunday, daily flights between Sydney and Denpasar are scheduled to begin. VA 63 will push back from SYD for the six-hour and 45-minute flight to Denpasar, landing at 16:30. The return flight, VA66, will depart DPS daily at 22:10 and get back to Sydney at 07:10 the next day.
Scheduled to leave Melbourne at 18:50 every evening from March 27, VA93 will fly north for six and half hours to land in Denpasar at 22:15. The return flight, VA96, will depart DPS at 23:25 and touch down in Melbourne at 08:00 the following day.
Also commencing March 27 are Virgin Australia’s daily flights from Brisbane to Depensar. VA47 will take off at 10:10 and land in Denpasar six and a half hours later at 14:35. Starting on the same day, the return flight departs DPS at 23:10 and lands back in Brisbane at 06:55 the next morning.
As of yet, Virgin Australia isn’t scheduling nonstop flights from Perth or Adelaide in March 2022. Dummy booking searches send passengers via the three Australian east coast cities. There is also nothing coming out up of Darwin. And while Virgin Australia has been showing Tasmania some love lately, that love definitely does not extend to scheduling direct flights to Denpasar from Hobart.
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Virgin Australia Fiji flights in time for Christmas
Indonesia isn’t in that band of countries Australia is likely to allow its vaccinated citizen to fly to and from initially. But Fiji is expected to make the cut. Fiji Airways, Qantas, and Jetstar are all planning to fly between Australia and Fiji by Christmas. Now, Virgin Australia is joining the fray. Flights to Nadi from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane will begin barrelling down the runway just in time to rendezvous with Santa in Fiji.
Resuming on Thursday, December 23, are daily flights between Sydney and Nadi. VA181 will leave SYD at 08:30 and land in Nadi four and a half hours later at 13:45. The return flight, VA182, will leave Nadi at 14:40 and get back into Sydney at 18:25.
Whereas now no passenger flights are running between Sydney and Nadi, on December 23, five flights in each direction are planned. That’s indicative of the hope (and money) riding on the expected December 17 Australian border re-opening happening.
Also commencing on December 23 are Virgin Australia flights between Brisbane and Nadi. VA175 will leave Brisbane at 09:15 each morning for the three hours and forty-minute hop over to Nadi, landing there at 14:55. Heading back, VA178 will push back from NAN at 15:45 and arrive in Brisbane at 17:50.
Restarting on December 24 are daily flights between Melbourne and Nadi. VA195 will push back from MEL at 09:10, spend five hours in the air, and land at Nadi at 15:10. The return flight, VA198, leaves NAN at 16:10 and gets back to Melbourne at 20:45.
Virgin Australia hedging its bets with other international destinations
While Virgin Australia has scratched many of its former international destinations from its website, some destinations remain listed. In addition to Denpasar, Nadi, and New Zealand airports, three South Pacific airports still crop up on Virgin Australia’s website.
They are Port Vila (VLI) in Vanuatu, Honiara (HIR) in the Solomon Islands, and Apia (APW) in Samoa. Vanuatu in particular is a popular holiday spot for Australians. While appearing to retain these destinations as future Virgin Australia international ports, the airline hasn’t yet begun to reschedule flights. There are currently no Virgin Australia flights timetabled to VLI, HIR, or APW for the next six months.
There seems to be a high degree of confidence travel to Fiji will happen in December, and Bali might open by March, but Virgin Australia isn’t yet prepared to bet on places like Samoa or the Solomons.
Virgin Australia’s first international foray was to be flights between Sydney and Queenstown, slated to start on December 7. But the two-way quarantine-free travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand is indefinitely paused. Consequently, Virgin Australia has quietly dropped its planned Queenstown flights from their timetable. Virgin Australia also has no flights to any destination in New Zealand scheduled between now and the end of March. That might give readers some indication of one airline’s views on the chances of free-flowing travel resuming between New Zealand and Australia any time soon.
Small steps for the reboot of Virgin Australia’s international network
In the first half of 2020, as the international travel demand dried up and Virgin Australia slid towards administration, the airline walked away from international flying.
It was a big step down for Virgin Australia. The airline took a lot of pride in their flagship Boeing 777 flights to places like Los Angeles and Hong Kong. The decision was a blow for regular passengers too. The Virgin Australia international product was good, frequently exceptionally good.
But as the airline fought its way through administration, there was a pivot back to core operations – flying trunk routes within Australia. It was a sensible strategy but it seemed to mark the end of the airline’s international ambitions.
At the same time, Virgin Australia offloaded its long haul fleet of Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 planes. That put the nails in Virgin Australia’s long-haul flying coffin. But there were some noises about resuming short-haul international flying using the surviving Boeing 737-800 aircraft when the flying environment improved.
Now Virgin Australia looks likely to make good on that. By scheduling (and selling) flights to Fiji and Bali, the airline is clearly banking on Fiji emerging as a Christmas holiday hotspot, with Bali only a few months behind. Small steps but still very good news.