Virgin Australia Pauses Flying On 10 Routes Amid 25% Capacity Cut

Virgin Australia is suspending flying on ten routes for up to five months as omicron buffets passenger demand and crew rosters. All up, Virgin Australia will cut its capacity by 25%. Along with other Australian airlines, Virgin Australia had high hopes of a busy summer of flying. Those hopes now appear largely dashed.

Virgin Australia will temporarily stop flying on 10 routes at the end of January. Photo: Getty Images

Recently relaunched Fiji flights suspended

On Monday, the Brisbane-based airline said it would suspend flights on the Adelaide – Darwin, Adelaide – Cairns, Adelaide -Sunshine Coast, Coffs Harbour – Melbourne, Hamilton Island – Melbourne, Sydney – Townsville, Melbourne – Townsville, Gold Coast – Launceston, and Gold Coast – Hobart sectors.

Notably, the airline is suspending flights on its recently launched services between Sydney and Nadi between January 31 and March 10, 2022. This route is one of only two international routes Virgin Australia flies (the other is Melbourne – Nadi). Virgin Australia launched both in mid-December amid great fanfare.

“Although we don’t know when this wave will pass, we do know that as we make the shift to living with COVID-19, there will continue to be changes in all our lives,” said Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka in a statement.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused to any guest impacted by the changes to our flight schedule during this time.”

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka. Photo: Virgin Australia

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Anticipated rather than firm restart dates

Adelaide is temporarily losing three Virgin Australia routes, including Adelaide – Darwin that will end on January 25 and resume on June 22. Adelaide – Cairns will end on January 25 and restart on June 23. Also going into hiatus is Adelaide – Sunshine Coast, which will end on January 24 and resume on March 29.

In addition to the Nadi service, Sydney is losing its Virgin Australia flights direct to Townsville. These flights will end on January 25 and restart on June 23.

Melbourne will see three Virgin Australia routes paused. They include the recently restarted Melbourne – Coffs Harbour flights, ending on January 25 and returning on March 31. Melbourne – Hamilton Island is also going into hiatus, with flights resuming on March 24. Flights between Melbourne and Townsville will end on January 25 with a restart date of June 23.

Tasmania is losing two Virgin Australia flights to the Gold Coast. Launceston – Gold Coast flights will stop on January 25 and resume on March 29. Flights between Gold Coast – Hobart services are wrapping up on January 24, with a restart date of March 30.

Virgin Australia notes while the January start dates are firm, the restart dates are “anticipated.”

The flight suspensions are a blow to Virgin Australia who had high hopes of a busy summer of flying. Photo: Getty Images

Qantas also drops flights across multiple routes

Rival Qantas has also quietly stopped flying on several routes over the January – February period. Qantas launched most of these routes last year, and many were to utilize leased Embraer E190s.

Hard to find these days are Qantas/QantasLink flights between Brisbane – Coffs Harbour, Adelaide – Townsville, Adelaide – Cairns, Adelaide – Hobart, Melbourne – Townsville, and Adelaide – Gold Coast.

Low-cost subsidiary Jetstar continues to operate flights across some of these routes. The about to be launched Qantas Embraer E190 flights between Townsville and Darwin appear paused. Instead, Qantas will sell seats on this sector on Airnorth flights using a codeshare arrangement for the time being.

Virgin Australia acknowledges the impact of omicron and isolation rules on its ability to roster crews onto scheduled flights effectively. But Qantas says omicron hasn’t significantly impacted its ability to crew flights.

With close contact isolation requirements curtailing the ability of many industries to function effectively, the push is on to relax the isolation requirements for workers in critical industries, including airlines, if those workers are not unwell.

A decision is expected imminently. That decision should help ease the problems airlines are having crewing their flights. However, it won’t necessarily encourage people to book tickets and take to the air.

Virgin Australia’s Jayne Hrdlicka says these suspensions are temporary, saying the airline was committed to the communities it served and would resume the suspended flights as soon as possible. However, the CEO also notes Virgin Australia will stay flexible and adapt as circumstances change.