Aviation

Virgin pushes back most short-haul international flights, as ScoMo refuses to guarantee quarantine-free travel in 2022

Virgin Australia will defer most short-haul international flying, including to Fiji and Indonesia, until at least December 2021.

The move is a similar one to that of Qantas in reaction to the federal government’s expectation that Australia’s international border won’t reopen until mid-2022, according to its newly-released Budget papers.

However, Virgin noted that continued efforts by state and federal governments to refine trans-Tasman travel arrangements will allow the airline to operate Boeing 737 services between Sydney and Queenstown and Brisbane and Queenstown as planned from 18 September 2021, along with Melbourne-Queenstown services from 7 December 2021.

Virgin said that due to current demand for other New Zealand destinations remaining subdued, it will defer them from sale alongside services to Vanuatu, Samoa and the Solomon Islands “for the time being”.

Customers impacted by the changes will be contacted directly and provided with options to obtain a full refund to the original form of payment or a credit for future travel with Virgin.

Alistair Hartley, chief strategy and transformation officer at Virgin, said the new forecast for international travel has required airline to reassess its network and give customers plenty of notice of any changes to their travel plans.

“While we know some Australians are itching to travel overseas, it is clear that international travel won’t return to normal as quickly as first anticipated,” he said.

“We’re being realistic about restarting short-haul international flying, and have today delayed services to the Pacific, and to Bali, Indonesia until at least December.

“Although we’ve seen positive developments with the trans-Tasman travel bubble and governments working exceptionally well to manage outbreaks, current demand for travel to New Zealand remains subdued, except for Queenstown, where customers are looking to travel over the September school holidays and the upcoming summer.

“All other New Zealand services will be deferred for the time being.

“We are continually reviewing our network to respond to the latest advice, and importantly looking at whether we can restart short-haul international flying, including to New Zealand, earlier, should travel demand improve and circumstances change.

“Doing the right thing for our customers remains at the heart of our decision-making, and while the impact is relatively low due to ongoing border uncertainty, we are working to provide affected customers with alternative options as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to guarantee quarantine-free international travel for Aussies in 2022, despite Federal Budget papers anticipating that the border will reopen in the second half of next year.

Speaking to Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30 following the Federal Budget reveal, ScoMo said it was “impossible for me to make those sorts of predictions in the middle of a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years”.

“I can fully understand why people want greater certainty, but I can only provide the certainty that’s available,” he said.


Featured image source: iStock/Ryan Fletcher

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