Virgin Australia said it will temporarily suspend all international flights and further cut domestic capacity in response to government travel restrictions and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel demand.

On Wednesday morning (March 18), the Australian government issued its highest travel warning, urging all Australian citizens not to travel overseas at this time.

Earlier on March 12, the Australian government announced that travel restrictions will continue to apply to travellers arriving from any part of mainland China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.

Australian citizens and permanent residents, as well as their immediate family members (spouses, legal guardians or dependents only) will still be able to enter Australia. All foreign nationals, Australian citizens and permanent residents will be required to undergo a compulsory self-quarantine for 14 days immediately upon arrival as well.

International network

The airline said it’ll suspend all international flying for two and a half months from March 30 to June 14 this year.

It added that its Melbourne-Los Angeles service will be suspended earlier from March 20, and it will postpone the launch of two routes, Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda and Melbourne-Denpasar, which were initially scheduled to fly from March 29 this year.

According to the Australian carrier, this temporary suspension will mean the grounding of five Boeing 777, one Airbus A330 and 14 Boeing 737 aircraft from the Virgin Australia Group’s international fleet.

The airline said it will operate a reduced international schedule between now and March 29 to “enable Australians to return home and visitors to return to their point of origin”.

Domestic network

Meanwhile, the airline said it will also reduce its domestic capacity by around 50 per cent until June 14 in response to “weakened demand”.

This will also result in the grounding of 20 Boeing 737, six Airbus A320, two ATR and five Airbus A330 aircraft from the Group’s domestic fleet.

Details of the affected routes and schedules across Virgin Australia and Tigerair Australia will be published next week.

Arrangements for affected passengers

The airline will be taking the following measures:

  • Guests with new or existing domestic and international bookings through June 30 this year have the option to change their flight to a later date, and/or a different destination, without incurring a change fee;
  • Guests who no longer wish to travel can cancel their flight and retain the value of the booking as a travel credit;
  • Guests affected by the suspension will be contacted regarding their booking. Those who have booked an international flight between March 30 and June 14 will be contacted by Virgin Australia within the next 14 days via email;
  • Travel agents will make direct contact with guests who have booked through them.

Virgin Australia advises guests not to contact the airline unless they are travelling in the next 24 hours or need immediate assistance to return home or to their point of origin due to “the large number of schedule changes”.

The additional capacity reductions follow the Australian carrier’s decision to cut its international flying capacity by eight per cent last week.

The airline also ceased its Sydney-Hong Kong service earlier this month.

It added that the temporary grounding of the international fleet and reduction in domestic capacity will impact the company’s workforce, and the Group is taking measures such as the use of accrued annual leave, leave without pay, redeployment, and “in some circumstances”, redundancies.

Commenting on the changes, Paul Scurrah, Virgin Australia CEO and managing director, said: “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 traveller 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.

“The Virgin Australia Group is focused on ensuring we manage the business through this difficult period and maintain a strong and competitive aviation industry in Australia for years to come”.