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Virgin ups Easter capacity despite border uncertainty

written by Adam Thorn | February 18, 2021
A file image of a Virgin Australia and Qantas Boeing 737-800. (Seth Jaworski)
A file image of a Virgin Australia and Qantas Boeing 737-800 in Cairns. (Seth Jaworski)

Virgin Australia is to significantly expand its capacity over the Easter holidays despite the continued uncertainly over border closures.

It means that from 11 April Virgin will offer 33 return services per week from Brisbane and Cairns; 55 between Sydney and the Gold Coast; and 26 between Melbourne and Hobart.

The business will also challenge Jetstar to operate new direct services between Adelaide-Sunshine Coast and Melbourne-Ballina Byron (Byron Bay) from 29 March 2021 until 25 April 2021.

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The new 737 direct services will be sold from $129 one way and add more than 13,000 seats across 37 return flights. While initially temporary, Virgin hopes to continue the service beyond the holidays subject to border closures.

Virgin made the announcement on Thursday morning after Victoria’s third lockdown ended.

“The tourism industry depends on all of us getting out and safely enjoying the company of family, friends and great adventures,” said chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka. “We have all worked hard to get to a place where we can enjoy these travel opportunities once again, with the added benefit of supporting vital jobs in our tourism destinations.”

The expansion also comes a week after Virgin within hours matched Rex’s announcement that it would sell tickets between Sydney and Melbourne for just $49.

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The airline also confirmed it would match Qantas’ ‘fee waiver’ policy, which means those who book domestic flights before 30 April 2021 for travel up to 31 January 2022 won’t have to pay a charge to switch.

Change fees and booking flexibility have been a key battleground for airlines in the last year. In January, Rex claimed “other carriers” had criticised its COVID refund policy, which allows any passenger affected by border closures to get their money back.

The tit-for-tat rush of announcement between the carriers came weeks before Rex becomes the first new challenger in two decades to fly between Sydney and Melbourne on 1 March, before adding Brisbane shortly after.

New routes

  • Adelaide – Sunshine Coast (Four return services per week from 30 March to 25 April)
  • Melbourne – Ballina, Byron Bay (Up to six return services per week from 29 March to 25 April)

Expanded frequencies

  • Brisbane – Cairns (up to 33 return services per week by 11 April)
  • Sydney – Cairns (up to 14 return services per week by 11 April)
  • Melbourne – Cairns (up to 10 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Brisbane – Hamilton Island (up to 12 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Brisbane – Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) (up to 9 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Sydney – Sunshine Coast (up to 14 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Melbourne – Sunshine Coast (up to 18 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Sydney – Gold Coast (up to 55 return services per week by 11 April)
  • Melbourne – Gold Coast (up to 38 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Adelaide – Gold Coast (up to 10 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Canberra – Gold Coast (up to 9 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Sydney – Ballina/Byron Bay (up to 14 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Perth – Broome (up to 11 return services per week by 11 April)
  • Perth – Kununurra (up to 5 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Brisbane – Launceston (up to 4 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Brisbane – Hobart (up to 10 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Melbourne – Hobart (up to 26 return services per week by 4 April)
  • Melbourne – Launceston (up to 21 return services per week by 4 April)

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