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Virgin matches Qantas to return to 60% capacity

written by Adam Thorn | December 1, 2020

Virgin Australia 737-8FE VH-YIV
A Virgin Australia 737-8FE lands at Melbourne YMML (Victor Pody)

Virgin Australia is set to match Qantas and return to 60 per cent of pre-COVID domestic capacity by January after significantly increasing the number of flights between NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Return frequencies by Christmas will increase to six per day between Melbourne and Brisbane; nine per day between Sydney and Brisbane; and twice daily between Newcastle and Brisbane.

In total, the airline has added a further 78,000 weekly seats between the three states by January 2021, after they finally opened to each other on Tuesday.

Jetstar chief executive Gareth Evans said the border opening was “terrific” for Queensland tourism operators who have “done it tough over the past four months”.

“From hotels, theme parks and cafes, to travellers and our people, everyone involved with Sunshine State tourism will be celebrating what is a fantastic day for Australia’s domestic recovery,” said Evans.


It comes as Qantas and Jetstar said last week its flying schedule will rebound to 60 per cent of pre-COVID levels and it would add an extra 1,200 return flights into Queensland from NSW and Victoria.

On Tuesday, the first flights into Brisbane Airport were a Qantas Boeing 737-838, VH-VZW msn 39359, which departed Sydney at 6:35am as flight QF502 and landed at 6:32am local time; and a Virgin Boeing 737-8FE, VH-YFX msn 41013, which departed at 7:12am as flight VA309 and landed at 8:04am.

Premier Palaszczuk had repeatedly stated that she would only open her state up to areas that have recorded a month without so-called community transmission – that is cases of COVID where no source of the infection can be traced.

Those rules meant Queensland opened up to NSW on 10 July but closed to Sydney on 1 August and then to all of NSW and the ACT again a week later. Despite opening for a second time to the ACT on 25 September and NSW on 20 October, the city of Sydney was excluded.

While the borders were always open to essentials travellers, they were effectively closed for all mainstream commercial flying.

The bizarre restrictions meant those from Sydney could potentially travel to Queensland but had to first spend 14 days outside the city. Travellers could also fly from Sydney Airport but couldn’t stop anywhere in the city en route.

Premier Palaszczuk said the decision was made after “extensive conversations” between her chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young, and NSW’s counterpart.

Queensland’s Deputy Premier, Steven Miles, called the announcement “a great day for Australia”.

In October, Australian Aviation revealed that Queensland’s continued refusal to open its borders to Sydney caused the latter’s domestic passenger traffic to flatline in September after plunging 70 per cent the previous month.

In a statement to the ASX, Sydney Airport said it welcomed 98,000 passengers in September, up only slightly from 91,000 in August and down significantly from 276,000 in July.

Sydney Airport also revealed it welcomed 34,000 international passengers in September, down slightly from 39,000 in August.

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Comments (12)

  • This is not mathematically possible with at best only 57 737-800 aircraft down from 103.
    This assumes to even get 57aircraft flying that all crews will have had recurrent checks and are current and all aircraft are through the return to service checks.
    When will your journalists ever actually gain enough experience to question when they are gioven optomistic flim flam by Bain?

  • GeoffR


    Can you please get an update from Rex and ask why they are not opening up regional NSW? Focus seems to be on bigger things and they have forgotten that it was regional NSW that has supported them in order that they can expand. Can we have some aircraft in the air?

  • Matt


    Wouldn’t 60% pre-covid translate to a much high percentage given Virgins reduced fleet and overall reduced schedule even when it is back to 100%?

  • Jonathan Carder


    What’s with the photo of a Virgin “737-8FE” landing in Melbourne, which has the “feathered” winglets only found on 737 MAX?

  • Peter


    Hi Adam, the only thing missing from this story is that because Virgin Mark II have lost so many aircraft in the Bain takeover, their ‘60%’ will be their ceiling as their capacity has been cut so hard. Which leaves room for both Qantas and Rex to muscle their share right now. Already we see that Virgin Mark II is actually going to be a smaller airline than Jetstar Australia!

  • Patrickk


    Adam one person’s bizarre is another person sensible. The states that have best managed COVID and got us to effective suppression is everyone except NSW and Vic both having appalling failures of quarantine security. The others are both labor and liberal but most commentators pick on the two labor states in their analysis and leave out Tassie and SA.

  • Peter


    If I was the QLD premier I would keep border closed There is no cure, so it will spike again. I am a Vic and would shut down borders until gtd safe.

  • John


    I agree with Patrickk,

    Adam you are an experienced aviation journalist but you have let your political “pettycoat” show with your almost daily repetition of the word “bizarre” in relation to the Queensland Premiers decision to close the Qld border to Sydney. I work for a magazine and I would have my knuckles severely rapped if I copied and pasted to that extent. Get over it and report some new developments.

    • Adam Thorn


      Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment. All news stories are different but many often don’t necessarily have that many new developments. In this case, I have two options, one is to write a short article – perhaps, say, 200 words – or the second option is to include relevant background and information.

      In this case, I choose to pick and choose the older information I think is relevant to each story, which is why you may see some information repeated. In terms of the choice of the word ‘bizarre’, well, you could argue that this is quite opinionated. To an extent it is, but I also think it’s justified and is a helpful shortcut. For me, it is bizarre to allow someone to drive into the city but without being able to stop. What if they want to go to the loo? Or buy a bottle of water because it’s hot? If someone gets taken ill and has to get assistance, does this invalidate the journey? I also think the bulk of the industry was against Queensland’s long closure.

      Hope that explains my thining and thanks for your comment,


  • Ward


    The meagre flights’ offering from VA currently is a concern. It’s certainly less than what was advertised.
    Are they waiting until every flight is full?
    Is Bain only doling out a few pence daily? Cash only, of course. Where’s the $3.5 BILLION they promised? On the STMM, maybe?
    Where’s Jayne? She’s been very quiet for awhile now. That’s a worry; she’s the CEO!
    What input has happened since Bain took over?
    With 50% less aircraft, how are they going to achieve 60% capacity? Sums aren’t adding up, that’s for sure.
    The saying ‘once bitten, twice shy’ comes to mind about an airline which was put into receivership, only 7 months’ ago.

  • Jennie



    Don’t you mean ‘petticoat’?

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