The return of domestic aviation in Australia received another huge boost on Thursday after Virgin announced it’s set to double its current capacity in July.
The airline will add 30,000 seats across 320 flights and will include interstate services to Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – despite border closures.
The move will allow some stood-down workers to return and comes days after the Qantas Group announced it would add 300 more return flights per week. You can view the new network in full here.
Virgin Australia’s chief commercial officer, John MacLeod, said, “It’s early days but these services will be a welcome boost to Australia’s tourism industry and help the nation’s economy and aviation sector to rebuild.”
As part of the new network, the business will also expand capital city connections and frequencies between Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
Currently, only NSW, Victoria and the ACT have kept their borders open, with other states restricting travel to residents or those with essential reasons.
The decision by Virgin Australia to increase frequency, therefore, will likely add to pressure on those states to remove the restrictions.
From 12 June, passengers also have to fill out a health questionnaire and undergo a health screening at check-in. The middle seat will be kept free where possible.
Virgin Australia group medical officer Dr Sara Souter said, “Team members and guests are being encouraged to regularly wash their hands and avoid touching their face, and hand sanitiser and masks will be available to all guests on request.
“We will be adopting contactless check-in, a new sequenced boarding and disembarkation process and guests will see more frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces on the aircraft and within the airport.
“In addition, a new health questionnaire will be rolled out as part of the check-in process to ensure passengers are fit to fly and to assist with contact tracing.”
The move to ramp up flying comes despite Virgin Australia’s administrator hinting on Wednesday that the two prospective bidders are worried about a lack of clarity regarding how long government support will last.
Deloitte even sent a letter to the government asking for a continuation of the JobKeeper subsidy beyond its late-September expiry and for a government-underwritten guarantee on ticket refunds.
Last week, Qantas dramatically announced it was planning to add 300 more return flights per week by the end of June.
The business also announced it could increase capacity “up to 40 per cent” by the end of July depending on demand and the lifting of state border restrictions.
Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said, “We know there is a lot of pent up demand for air travel and we are already seeing a big increase in customers booking and planning flights in the weeks and months ahead.”
Currently, Qantas and Jetstar are operating just 5 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity but the June increase will shift that up to 15 per cent.
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