Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah has said he doesn’t think the revived airline is likely to fly international routes for the next two years.
Speaking briefly to 2GB host Ben Fordham on Thursday, he also said the business’ decision to cut 3,000 roles was “heartbreaking”.
“It’s been a sad year for us as well as the aviation sector,” Scurrah added.
On Wednesday, the larger Virgin Australia Group announced it would make around a third of its employees redundant and also axe the Tigerair brand – making the low-cost carrier the country’s first major airline casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement to the ASX, the business indicated it would aim to operate as a so-called hybrid, running a mixture of services but with less of a focus on international routes than before.
“Virgin Australia aims to be the best value carrier in the market, not a low-cost carrier,” the group said.
It added that long-haul international flying would remain an “important part of the plan but suspended until the global travel market recovers”.
The new network will operate with a slimmed-down fleet, operating a 737 mainline fleet for domestic services but removing ATR, Boeing 777, Airbus A330 and Tigerair Airbus A320s.
Its regional and charter fleet will also be maintained.
“Demand for domestic and short-haul international travel is likely to take at least three years to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, with the real chance it could be longer, which means as a business we must make changes to ensure the Virgin Australia Group is successful in this new world,” said Scurrah on Wednesday.
Currently, Australian citizens, permanent residents and even dual citizens are banned from leaving the country unless they receive an exemption. The restrictions led to Qantas and Virgin effectively halting international flights in late March, other than specific repatriations.
Australian Aviation reported in June that Qatar is now the country’s biggest international airline, with its share of passengers surging from just 3 per cent to 44.5 per cent in April.