Virgin Australia Suspends All International Operations

Virgin Australia has made plans to ground its entire international fleet this morning, as well as suspending all international routes from the end of March. Additionally, it has reduced its domestic capacity by 50% in a move to prevent further financial losses due to the coronavirus. The airline expects operations to return to normal by June 2020.

Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER – All Virgin Australia widebodies will be grounded soon. Photo: Getty

What are the details?

Virgin Australia has taken unprecedented action against the harsh market conditions and suspended all of its international flights starting from the 29th of March. The airline is following advice given by the Australian government to no longer fly to foreign countries.

Specifically, the Australian government issued a new warning late on Tuesday night, 17th of March, that all countries in the world are now considered stage four risk destinations. Thus, Australian airlines are not allowed to operate to them.

In terms of International routes, Virgin Australia will be suspending the following destinations:

Other international flights, such as Virgin Australia’s popular Sydney to Los Angeles route and New Zealand destinations will continue to fly until March 29th to enable foreigners and Australians to return home.

What about domestic flights?

Additionally, the group will be reducing domestic operations in Australia by around 50%. These will not be route suspensions, but just reducing frequencies between capital cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane (which have hourly flights). These changes also affect the group’s low-cost arm Tiger Airways which will also see capacity reductions.

“We are also acutely aware of the important role airlines play in supporting connectivity, tourism, and the nation’s economy and are maintaining most of our domestic routes, and instead of reducing frequencies in our schedule.” – Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah

After the end of March, the equivalent of 53 aircraft (including all of its widebodies) will be grounded. This includes grounding of five Boeing 777, one Airbus A330 and fourteen Boeing 737 aircraft from the Group’s international fleet” and “twenty Boeing 737, six A320, two ATR and five Airbus A330 aircraft from the Group’s domestic fleet”.

Virgin Australia
A Virgin Australia Boeing 737 takes off. The group will be grounding over 20 of this aircraft type. Photo: Getty

What did the Virgin Australia CEO say?

Speaking to shareholders and the aviation market, the CEO of Virgin Australia, Paul Scurrah, outlined why the airline has taken these actions, saying,

“We have entered an unprecedented time in the global aviation industry, which has required us to take significant action to responsibly manage our business while balancing traveler demands and supporting the wellbeing of Australians. We have responded by making tough decisions which include reducing our domestic capacity and phasing in the temporary suspension of international flying for a period of two and a half months.”

To help keep the company stable, the CEO has fast-tracked employee holidays, unpaid leave and redeploying staff onto other projects (such as focusing on aircraft maintenance). The CEO team is also taking no bonus’ this year and has had its salary reduced by 15%. The company has not ruled out some redundancies, however.

Australia Qantas Virgin
Qantas has also been affected by the coronavirus, and will also be taking action. Photo: Getty Images

What about passengers booked onboard a Virgin Australia flight?

If you are booked onboard a Virgin Australia flight in the near future, the airline has the following steps in place.

  • Passengers who have bookings for flights through till the end of June 2020 can change their flight to a later date or location without a fee. Those who want to cancel can get travel credit without issue.
  • Passengers who are scheduled to fly on a canceled service will be emailed or otherwise contacted in the next 14 days.
  • If you have booked through a travel agent, then they will be your point of contact regarding your booking.

Due to the large number of people changing their bookings, Virgin Australia recommends only trying to contact them if your flight is in the next 24-48 hours.

“We are committed to supporting our guests during this period and have set up a dedicated customer care hub to manage the surge of customer queries and travel changes.”

Have you been affected by this news? Let us know in the comments.