Virgin Adds Domestic Routes, Delays International Restart

Virgin Australia 737
A Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800. Photo: Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia will add five new domestic routes and add more flights on 20 existing routes as demand increases across the domestic network. But the announcement came just a week after Virgin further delayed its planned restart of international flights.

New Virgin Australia domestic routes

From July 2021, Virgin Australia will add flights on the following new routes:

  • Sydney-Darwin – daily flights from 14 July 2021 (seasonal route)
  • Cairns-Perth – up to 4x weekly flights from 26 July 2021
  • Sydney-Townsville – 3x weekly flights from 27 July 2021
  • Adelaide-Cairns – up to 4x weekly flights from 10 August 2021
  • Melbourne-Townsville – 3x weekly flights from 17 August

The new Darwin-Sydney service will operate as a redeye flight departing Darwin at 1.35am and arriving in Sydney at 6.20am. But Virgin’s Perth-Cairns service will provide an alternative to Jetstar’s existing redeye service on that route at a more passenger-friendly time. The Perth-Cairns route was also on sale for just $99 in last Thursday’s Happy Hour sale!

Many more routes including Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane, Melbourne-Sunshine Coast and Brisbane-Perth will see added weekly frequencies between now and October 2021.

Virgin Australia also says it plans to create 250 new jobs as a result of this latest domestic network expansion.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Virgin adds/increases Cairns, Darwin, Townsville routes.

Virgin Australia delays international flight restart

Following the recent news that Australia is unlikely to fully reopen its international borders until mid-2022, it was inevitable that airlines would have to respond. Qantas has already deferred its plans to resume most international flights (except to New Zealand) until at least mid-December 2021.

Virgin Australia, too, has now deferred plans to resume most international flight until at least December 2021. In fact, and unlike Qantas, it has now stopped selling flights to most international destinations completely.

Currently, Virgin Australia plans to resume flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Queenstown from 18 September 2021. But flights Bali and Fiji won’t resume until at least 1 December 2021.

Queenstown ZQN New Zealand
Virgin plans to resume flights to Queenstown, New Zealand in September 2021.

Meanwhile, Virgin has pulled all flights to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Port Vila, Apia and Honiara from sale. Customers with affected bookings will be contacted and offered a refund or travel credit.

“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,” Virgin Australia Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Alistair Hartley said.

Qantas, Air New Zealand and Jetstar are currently operating trans-Tasman services, but demand appears to be below what the airlines had hoped for. In recent weeks, some Qantas trans-Tasman flights have been cancelled or downgraded to smaller aircraft.

“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,” Mr Hartley said.

On the other side of the pandemic, Virgin Australia does not plan to resume flights to Dunedin, Port Moresby, Rarotonga or Nuku’alofa. Virgin also has no immediate plans to return to Los Angeles, Hong Kong or Tokyo as it no longer has any suitable long-haul aircraft in its fleet to serve those destinations.

Virgin Australia has retired all its Airbus A330s (and Boeing 777s) capable of flying to long-haul destinations.

As a result, Virgin Australia will remain a largely domestic-only airline for the foreseeable future. When international flying does resume, the carrier will only fly to Bali, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Solomon Islands and four destinations in New Zealand.

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka was in the news last week after poorly worded comments she made about the reopening of Australia’s borders were taken out of context by some parts of the media. But, while the airline would undoubtedly prefer international borders to be open, Virgin has found relative success after emerging from voluntary administration as a smaller, domestic-only airline.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Virgin delays return to international flights, culls most NZ destinations

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]