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Virgin suspends all domestic services bar Sydney-Melbourne

written by Adam Thorn | April 9, 2020

Virgin Australia has announced it will soon operate only the Sydney to Melbourne service. (Australian Aviation archive)

Virgin Australia will suspend all domestic services from 10 April, except one return flight between Sydney and Melbourne.

Previously, the airline had reduced domestic capacity by 90 per cent, flying to just 19 destinations, and cancelled all international journeys.

The business said in a statement, “As a result of government restrictions, less people are travelling and we have made changes to our schedules to reflect this. We continue to operate a daily service between Melbourne and Sydney, provide cargo transport locally and overseas, and operate charter flights including assisting the government in bringing Australians home.”

The Sydney to Melbourne return service will operate daily except Saturdays, and there is no news as to whether this latest announcement will result in more job losses.

The airline has currently stood down 8,000 employees since the coronavirus crisis took hold.


On Monday, Virgin Australia ramped up its lobbying for a bailout by placing a full-page advert in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph warning of the dangers of a Qantas monopoly.

In an apparent swipe at its biggest rival, the text states, “Our biggest competitors need a challenger to keep them honest and innovative. A monopoly won’t even work for them.”

The Virgin Australia Group is currently seeking a $1.4 billion loan from the government to help it survive during the coronavirus crisis, but has also become embroiled in a tit-for-tat row with Qantas, which is lobbying to prevent it.

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Comments (16)

  • PZ


    Without a doubt this is a troubling time for the world and the aviation sector. I am neither pro Qantas or Virgin but I understand the sentiment or reluctance to provide financial assistance to a carrier that is predominately owed by foreign investors who in the past have injected funds previously. Understandably none of those investors presumably are in a position to do the same in this instance. The dilemma that the government faces is that if it were to agree to some sort of financial assistance for Virgin then surely the case would be compelling to do the same for Qantas. I would not like to see or wish bad on Virgin and hope that there will be an outcome that is encouraging and positive. I do believe that at the end of all of this we will see a very different aviation sector in Australia one way or another.

  • Meepa


    Qantas need a challenger, but its not Virgin!

    Frankly, you cant bail out badly run companies! Simply JB (previous CEO) made millions in bonuses, wages and left the company in dire circumstances with terrible structure, bad cash balances and terrible management of Tigerair.

    We need another carrier and Virgin are not it. Sorry to all the front line troops but if you think your job will last forever in a badly run company then that ignorance is on you.

    And yes, another player will eventually come into the market.

    • Rod Pickin


      Meepa Hi, I share your sentiments in full about Mr. B. – he had a grand, totally not achievable vision and ambition for VOZ in the timeframe that he envisaged and with the budget he had, did he have a budget or understand it? He has moved on and so has VOZ, there is a new team there now heading up the business and whilst there are heaps of speed bumps on the road to recovery we owe it to all concerned to back them. I am certain that now, if the board didn’t think the company could survive and prosper, they would say so, they wouldn’t countenance any misguidance.

    • Kris


      Meepa- I am not sure why you think Virgin shouldn’t be Australia’s second national carrier? The airline already has the infrastructure, fleet, staff, domestic and limited international route structures, so there is no reason why the Australian government considering is very pro business, not give the airline a bail out with the write to take equity to the value of the loan or full equity if the airline defaults.

      With the world’s economy now in global recession and global passenger aviation in almost in hibernation, who will want to invest, start and operate an airline during a global recession?

    • Ben


      @Meepa – if a challenger to Qantas is not Virgin, then who should it be? There are no other options. When Ansett collapsed, Virgin was a young, start up LCC who was quickly able to expand, become a virtually full service airline, or at the very least a hybrid between LCC and full service. They were able to essentially almost fill the gap that Ansett left.

      If Virgin collapse – there’s now no such airline waiting in the wings to fill the gap in demand. Not that there will be much demand to fill in the short/medium term. However if Virgin go, so will Tiger. I think there is only Alliance airlines and Rex left as established carriers who are not affiliated with QF. Alliance and Rex could perhaps merge and re-equip with A220s/A320s and ATR fleet or something similar. Then gradually expand into widebody aircraft as demand increases. However they’re going to face an uphill battle trying to build up to the scale to compete with QF.

      Much less likely is a start up carrier able to immediately scale up to the size of operation of VA. That would require an absolutely massive capital investment – and I doubt anyone is willing or indeed able to do that in current circumstances.

      The solution may well be to nationalise VA and perhaps QF too. We’ll need a strong, viable aviation sector in Australia when all this is over.

  • TD


    Everybody knows the dangers of a Qantas or whatever monopoly in any industry. Nobody wants to see our Aussies including all support crews and staff being in this situation.
    Bottom line is Virgins owners need to bail their own airline out and put back some of the profits that are overseas back into their own airline ; after all it’s been a long time coming especially after enduring across Australia flights for top dollar and not even getting a glass of water for breakfast (with the flight attendants going red from embarrassment).
    Our government using tax payers money while fellow Australians need help is not a bank for free enterprise by non Australians or non Australian owners who take the profits out of country.

  • Craigy


    Qantas may need competition but Virgin needs better management.

    And in other news B744 VH-OEG has retired to the Mojave Desert.

  • Brett Keyworth


    Our commitment to you -what a joke. They left 86 people in Cairns stranded yesterday 09 April due to over booking a flight by 86 people – a 737…..go figure. Then they offered an alternative flight from Mackay and required people to somehow make their own way to that point only to announce after their offices closed that they were grounded. What a terrible way to treat there so called guests. I was one of the affected passengers and so far their incompetence and perceived lack of transparency has cost me hundreds of dollars. Then they send a txt to say they refer us to the ACCC to look at refunds. I invite comments……….

    • Rod Pickin


      Hi Brett, there would be few of us within the industry that at some stage have not been left dumped in some far away place, money running out, maybe young kids too; not a good space, I empathise with you. In your case at CNS, an overbooking of 86 WOW, minus a workable plan B coupled with your other experiences there would normally align itself with a company “going finish” but their reference to the ACCC who, in my knowledge would not normally be the folk to contact re this type of situation makes me think that this was down to a local competency/non issue, certainly atrocious P.R. and I am certain that mahogany row at VOZ would not be impressed. My sympathies are with you, I hope your Easter will be tops!

    • Ben


      @Brett, I appreciate what you’re saying from the point of view of cost and the inconvenience. However domestic air services have basically been in some kind of predominant shutdown (or very scaled back operations) since the middle of March. Both for QF and VA. You’re travelling nearly a month after this occurred. I had commenced a domestic holiday prior to this staring and the return journey (at the end of March), resulted in 3 flights being cancelled and needing to be re-booked on near empty 737s on VA. It cost me an extra nights accommodation, but when it was over VA did get me home – the long way around. I suppose I could claim the $130 unexpected hotel bill on travel insurance, but I won’t, because I was just glad to get home. Like recommended – I am now staying at home apart from needing to travel to work (thankful I still have a job), do essential shopping, or exercise. In other words, everyone should be at home unless travel is essential.

      Your travel may well be essential – I’m unsure of the circumstances. I do also agree that overbooking a 737 by over 80 seats would normally be inexcusable. However these are not normal circumstances.

      The VA ground, cabin and flight crews I was served by last month, went out of their way to get me home under very trying circumstances. They maintained professionalism, passion and a customer focused approach throughout. The check in staff at Sydney who had to re-book me to another flight due to cancellation were on their last day of work before being stood down. Yet they were professional and committed to the end. A bit of perspective is needed perhaps. This is not a circumstance of the making of VA staff.

      ‘Our commitment to you’ – in my experience this was very much appreciated and far from a joke.

      I felt VA were starting to turn the corner under their new CEO before all this started. Hopefully they will recover and go from strength to strength. QF certainly need competition. If they don’t get it, I’m pretty sure we’ll all experience the higher prices and perhaps poor customer service as a result.

  • Red Cee


    Brett, that is a disgrace. Surely they could have sent an extra 737 to CNS to collect you all. If Virgin treat their passengers in this way, they have sunk lower than
    I would ever have thought possible. Can Virgin management please explain the reasons?

  • Not a happy VA Flyer


    I agree that QF needs competition . As long as VA is there QF does not have competition. VA takes no notice of their Customer Service Charter and when you complain they make up the rules to suit themselves and shoot the messenger.

    Travelling in February on return flights from CBR to MEL it was most interesting to see the number of people clearing security at QF compared to VA. QF had hundreds at MEL during evening peak period to VA 50.

    This reminded me of the last weeks before AN ceased operations.

    How sneaky of VA to sack their TT pilots. Transferring TT flight credits to VA Why ? I believe TT will not return.

    VA management only have themselves to blame.

  • Modern aviation is very competitive and JB (as others call him) worked very hard to forge a high quality competitor to the Qantas Group. He succeeded. I would suggest, Post Coronavirus, VA may need to focus on core business. To me that means no more Tiger Brand, cut flights to the US and sell the 777s but keep the A330s for domestic East West VA operations and perhaps look at HK again when things improve. Concentrate on Australia, NZ and the Pacific. VA has taken an almost knock out blow (through no fault of their own) and needs a bail-out to get back on it’s feet. It is likely Govt will need to take a stake in the business. The heart of VA is it’s professional aircrew who are ready ,willing and able to fly and to see us flying again. Importantly, they deserve that opportunity. Fleet-wise – cancel the 737 MAX order and renew with Airbus A320 for the 737 replacement program.

    • Rhino


      Seriously, JB succeeded? The results speak for themselves. The last time VAH returned a profit was way back in 2012. Since then they have cumulatively lost nearly $2billion.
      FY19 $315m loss
      FY18 $653m loss
      FY17 $185m loss
      FY16 $225m loss
      FY15 $94m loss
      FY14 $356m loss
      FY13 $98m loss
      FY12 $23m profit

  • David Blake


    In my opinion, domestic and international passenger demand will remain at low levels until well after effective SARS-CoV-2 infection control and COVID-19 disease management approaches have been put in place and become routine. Demand for air transport will remain at low levels, possibly historically low levels, if Australia and numerous other countries sustain very high levels of unemployment (think 10% to 15% as a range). All that discretionary spending power was incinerated last month, along with that key consumer driver, confidence. Business travel will remain weak as well. If FIFO crews end up doing one-month off, one month one, then who knows, a 500-800 km drive to work in some parts of Australia might be cost effective if longer in duration than a flight.
    So the upshot is that there won’t be enough volume to support two airlines in Australia for quite a while.
    By the way, I am keen to understand why flights operated by Chinese airlines are also continuing to operate into Australia? Thoughts?

  • Miguel


    It is very simple as tax payers we should not be in bailing out foreign owned shareholders from China, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. They don’t even pay taxes here. And they have removed all the profits the airline made in Australia. Let their wealthy shareholders bail them out. Or just let them go broke and pick up the company for 10 cents in the dollar.

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