Aviation

New aircraft, more jobs and a bigger network: Virgin Australia fast-tracks growth plans

Virgin Australia Group has announced fast-tracked plans to acquire new aircraft, create more frontline jobs and grow its network to further support domestic tourism.

The recovery efforts include the reintroduction of 10 additional Boeing 737-800 aircraft and the planned return of more than 80 per cent of the airline’s pre-pandemic domestic capacity by mid-June.

Network operational changes will also allow the airline to redeploy Boeing 737 aircraft to other parts of its network over the coming months.

After a year of rolling state-based restrictions, Virgin said pent-up travel demand is supporting the launch of several new and expanded services and frequencies on key leisure and business routes.

Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka (pictured aobve) said the airline was strongly focused on its domestic recovery program, which includes delivering experiences guests love while providing great value for leisure travellers, corporates and SMEs.

“We are building a strong and disciplined business, obsessed with providing our customers the very best of Virgin Australia travel experiences,” she said.

“More aircraft means more flying, and with easing travel restrictions, there are more opportunities to further support domestic tourism and the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

“Today, we are operating around 850 weekly return flights, and as we approach the June school holidays, we will add another 220 return flights per week to our schedule. By mid-June, we expect to be operating more than 80 per cent of our pre-COVID domestic capacity.

“We’re hopeful that domestic border closures will soon be a thing of the past and are continuing to see positive signs of consumer recovery.

“As an example of this, we’ve had multiple record-breaking sales days of half-priced fares, with more than 75 per cent of the tickets being booked for travel from May onwards.

“All of this will provide much-needed certainty for hundreds of our team members, who through no fault of their own, were required to give up their jobs because of the extraordinary impacts of the pandemic.

“We are thrilled to be able to welcome many of them back to Virgin Australia.”

Commitment to jobs

Image source: Virgin Australia

The creation of more roles at the company will see more than 220 cabin crew return to the skies from the airline’s discontinued long-haul international, ATR regional and Tigerair Australia operations.

The new recruits will join one of 15 cabin crew training schools over the next two months.

In addition, a major recruitment drive to fill more than 150 new cabin crew roles, including an expression of interest for future positions has also begun today, with applications from other Virgin employee groups being assessed as a matter of priority.

External expressions of interest can be made via the airline’s careers website.

Fleet and network

Virgin has finalised arrangements to re-introduce 10 Boeing 737-800 aircraft which had previously been operated by the airline, with further aircraft under investigation.

The first three aircraft will join Virgin’s mainline fleet this month, while the remainder are set to progressively enter service by October.

Image source: iStock/Boeing746

The company has also entered into wet-lease arrangements with Alliance Airlines to operate Fokker 100 services on behalf of Virgin between Brisbane and Alice Springs and Brisbane and Mt Isa from 19 April 2021.

Virgin said the move will allow it to explore more efficient ways of managing capacity and frequencies to support choice and convenience for regional customers.

Using an Airbus A320 aircraft, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines will also move to operate select services on mainline routes between Perth and Darwin, Perth and Broome and Perth and Adelaide from next month.

Virgin said these arrangements will support the redeployment of the Boeing 737 aircraft to other markets.

Between now and the June school holidays, the airline will add more than 220 return flights per week to its schedule, offering new and extended seasonal services and expanded frequencies on key business and leisure routes.

Virgin’s trans-Tasman services to Queenstown are set to recommence ahead of school holidays on 18 September 2021.

TWU says Virgin must act now on promises to workers 

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has welcomed Virgin’s plans to fast-track an increase to flights, and said it will hold the airline to its commitments to maximise jobs for experienced workers and prioritise its current workforce.

Adam Carter, assistant secretary of the TWU’s Queensland branch said that if done right, Virgin’s move to ramp up flying could close the lid on a traumatic year of administration, stand-downs and redundancies for the airline’s loyal workers.

“Aviation workers are incredibly passionate and loyal,” he said.

“They have stood by Virgin through the toughest times and worked hard to ensure the business came back as a strong competitor in the critical aviation market, which is a lifeline for much of Queensland’s economy.

“As we move towards a welcome return to the skies, workers must be prioritised and rewarded for their dedication first and foremost.

“A ramp-up of flying must be met with improvements to hours and conditions for the existing workforce. If the industry is on the up and up, then so must be job security, decent conditions and remuneration.

“The TWU looks forward to continuing a co-operative relationship with Virgin as flying picks up.”

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