Sunday night update: Qantas, Virgin react to new restrictions

written by Adam Thorn | March 22, 2020

The Qantas and Virgin groups have hinted they’ll make further cuts to their domestic schedule after a series of travel bans and restrictions announced on Sunday.

On a dramatic Sunday afternoon:

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised all Australians to avoid “non-essential” interstate and longer-distance travel.
  • NSW and Victoria said they were to enter a lockdown in the next 48 hours, with only “essential” services remaining open.
  • WA and SA joined Tasmania and the Northern Territory in effectively shutting its border to non-residents.
  • The country’s National Cabinet meeting was brought forward to Sunday evening to discuss further restrictions of movement.
  • The government announced a raft of financial measures to help individuals and businesses.

After the announcements, the Qantas Group said it would “continue to adjust… services as needed in light of the latest advice and restriction”. Virgin similarly said it was considering its “options and next steps”.

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Speaking in Canberra on Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “After consulting Premiers and Chief Ministers overnight, we have decided that we are moving immediately to recommend against all nonessential travel in Australia. So that is that all non-essential travel should be cancelled.

A file image of Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQK. (Wikimedia Commons/N509FZ)
A file image of Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQK. (Wikimedia Commons/N509FZ)

“Now, essential travel, what I’m referring to is for work-related activities that are essential. It could be the compassionate grounds and issues of those types of arrangements.

“But also when it comes to essential supplies and activities, movements of health workers and other important arrangements that are needed to keep Australia running.

“We also need to think about the decisions that we are taking and its impact on other Australians. So it does mean those holidays that you might have been planning to take interstate over the school holidays, cancel them.”

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“We will give you as many rules as we can and as many guidelines but we need you to think carefully about what you are doing and your behaviour and the impact it has on others.

“This is incredibly important. It is not just about each of us individually but the person standing next to us, the person who lives across the road, the elderly resident in the same apartment building as you or whatever you might be.”

Hours after the Prime Minister made the announcement, states appeared to break ranks and announce more stringent measures that went beyond the national measures.

NSW and Victoria will phase in lockdowns over the next 48 hours, which will include everything but “essential services”, thought to include supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies. More specifics are yet to be released.

WA and SA joined Tasmania and the NT in effectively closing their borders to non-residents.

Previously, the Qantas Group announced 60 per cent of domestic flights would be cancelled, and Virgin 50 per cent.

Virgin chief executive Paul Scurrah even previously spoke of the importance of keeping domestic routes open.

Last week, he said, “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. 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 reducing frequencies in our schedule.”

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2 Comments

  • Greg

    says:

    Virgin have been terrific. We needed to bring forward our return flights from Perth. They were discounted fares. Virgin answered the phone quickly and changed our flight at no cost and no fuss. They are doing their best in a difficult time.

  • Josephine Plaster

    says:

    My flights back to the USA are taken by Qantas and I am waiting for the reply from Qantas, I feel safe with the airliners whatever decision they will take.

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