Virgin Australia has axed all its regular commercial services apart from one key route. In a bid to get a grasp on its rapidly depleting finances, the airline will operate only one flight per day between Sydney and Melbourne. However, despite this, it is planning to make a rare appearance in Europe as it works to repatriate stranded Australian travelers.
Virgin suspending almost all routes
Virgin Australia is just one flight away from a complete shutdown of its operations, as it was reported today on Executive Traveler. From tomorrow, April 10th, the airline will shut down all its routes apart from one daily flight between Sydney and Melbourne. It won’t even operate any flights to or from its operational headquarters in Brisbane.
Executive Traveler got a look at an internal email issued out by Stuart Aggs, Virgin Australia’s chief operational officer. In it, he said,
“Since our last capacity reduction announcement we have seen demand all but dry up, and our load factors are very low. As you know, we are doing everything we can to preserve our cash balance, and given we are seeing little to no demand on our existing skeleton schedule, it is appropriate that we reduce our capacity further.”
Aggs went on to say that the almost non-existent schedule will remain in place until Monday 15th June, but of course, this will depend on how the situation evolves. The struggling airline recently requested an AUD $1.4bn ($870m) bailout from the government, but that was ruled out last week.
Repatriating stranded travelers
Despite the deep cuts to its schedule, Virgin Australia has a key role to play in getting stranded passengers back home. The airline is gearing up for a mega-long flight, all the way to Paris, this Saturday 11th April.
Using a Boeing 777, Virgin will head out from Brisbane completely empty at 08:00 on Saturday morning, but will begin its long trip heading in entirely the wrong direction! Before flying northwest to Europe, it will head down to Auckland to pick up its passengers, and is scheduled to land there at around 13:00 that day.
Following a two hour stop in New Zealand, the 777 will take off for Hong Kong where it should arrive at 22:30 the same day. It won’t take on any passengers here, but will park up for just over 100 minutes to refuel for the onward trip. Finally, it should arrive into Paris (CDG) at 07:30 on Sunday morning.
The Boeing 777 is expected to head back to Australia later on Sunday, stopping again in Hong Kong on the way down. In this direction, passengers will be allowed to board in Hong Kong if they need to get back to Brisbane.
The only seats available for sale on any of these rescue flights are in economy. This is likely due to additional crew members being required to facilitate the flight, who, as with Aer Lingus, will be occupying the business class cabin alone. This is to allow them to rest properly, and to keep them safely distant from other passengers.
The flight is part of a number of government-sponsored repatriation efforts by both Virgin and Qantas due to take place in April. Stranded passengers needing to get to and from destinations including London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Auckland will be given priority on these flights.
A Virgin Australia spokesperson told Executive Traveler,
“As a major Australian carrier we are pleased to support the Government in getting Australians home and maintaining important freight links into the country. We’re also happy to help return others to their home countries.”
What do you think about Virgin’s massive schedule cuts? Let us know in the comments.