Australia’s airline industry is in the doldrums, but there is some rare good news this week. After launching a new route on Friday, Virgin Australia is also starting or resuming flights on two more new routes this week.
On Friday, the airline launched flights between Adelaide (ADL) and Cairns (CNS). Today, Virgin Australia is re-establishing nonstop flights between Adelaide and Darwin (DRW). Tomorrow, Virgin Australia will become the first airline in two decades to fly nonstop between Adelaide and Launceston (LST).
With the big Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne locked down and other Australian states barring passengers from these two cities, airlines are looking to drum up business flying skinnier routes between smaller cities.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Virgin Australia takes on Jetstar on the ADL – CNS route
Last week, Virgin Australia took on Jetstar flying the 1321 miles (2126 kilometers) between Adelaide and Cairns. Qantas has delayed plans to start flying the route. Jetstar flies daily on the route using Airbus A320-200 aircraft. Virgin Australia will initially send a Boeing 737-800 plane to Cairns three times a week.
“We’re delighted to welcome these new services from South Australia, and I congratulate Virgin on their commitment to this route,” said Cairns Airport Chief Operating Officer Garry Porter.
“With the current NSW and Victorian travel restrictions in place, we know many local operators are businesses are facing enormous challenges, and these green shoots are really important right now.”
Cairns Airport saw just over 55,000 visitor arrivals from Adelaide in 2019, making it their third-largest interstate market.
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia is making a welcome return on the Adelaide – Darwin route on Monday. Qantas and Jetstar already service the 1,623 mile (2,612 kilometer) north-south route.
Both the Qantas and Jetstar flights are morning departures from ADL and lunchtime departures from DRW. Besides being highly cost competitive, the timing of Virgin Australia’s new Darwin flights gives it a real point of difference. VA1785 now departs Adelaide at 13:00 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. VA1784 leaves Darwin at 17:40 on the same days to return to Adelaide. An early evening departure out of Darwin for a southern capital city is a rare thing.
Virgin Australia gives Launceston some love
On Tuesday, Virgin Australia is breaking new ground and becoming the first airline in a very long time to offer nonstop flights between Adelaide and the northern Tasmanian city of Launceston. Now bypassing the Melbourne transit, the 655 miles (1055 kilometers) flight will take one hour and 50 minutes.
Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737-800 flights will initially operate three times a week, providing 4,576 seats per month. Launceston Airport says the route is the first major domestic service added to Launceston in over than 10 years.
“The one route that we constantly get asked about adding is finally here, and we’re thrilled Virgin made the decision to launch, especially as both cities are free from COVID-related travel restrictions,” said Launceston Airport CEO Shane O’Hare.
“We know a lot of local fly-in fly-out workers need to access Adelaide on a regular basis, plus we expect the route to be popular with holidaymakers seeking new experiences.”
With Virgin Australia battling the dominant Qantas Group and a slew of local border closures and travel restrictions, the airline currently faces some formidable challenges. But it is a good news start to the week seeing Virgin Australia’s network expanding rather than shrinking.