Virgin Australia has again pushed back its plans to return to international short-haul routes following news that the federal government is unlikely to allow a return of international travel until mid-2022.
Last weekend, the release of the federal government’s budget suggested that international borders would not fully re-open until at least mid-2022, pushing back from earlier estimates of late 2021.
In light of the news, Virgin has announced it has again deferred its intentions to reinstate flights from Australia to Fiji and Indonesia until “at least” December 2021.
Further, in a surprising call, despite the government’s provision for a trans-Tasman bubble, Virgin will not be pursuing flights to most New Zealand destinations for the foreseeable future.
This is a change from the carrier’s previous announcements in which it said it would begin routes to Queenstown from September, and other major NZ cities from 31 October.
“Although we’ve seen positive developments with the trans-Tasman travel bubble and governments working exceptionally well to manage outbreaks, current demand for travel to New Zealand remains subdued, except for Queenstown, where customers are looking to travel over the September school holidays and the upcoming summer,” said Virgin’s chief strategy and transformation officer Alistair Hartley.
“All other New Zealand services will be deferred for the time being.”
As previously announced, from 18 September, Virgin will operate Boeing 737 services from Sydney and Brisbane to Queesntown. It will then expand its offering to include Melbourne to Queenstown flights from 7 December 2021.
However due to “subdued” demand, Virgin will also indefinitely defer its return to other short-haul international destinations, including Vanuatu, Samoa and the Solomon Islands.
“While we know some Australians are itching to travel overseas, it is clear that international travel won’t return to normal as quickly as first anticipated,” Hartley said.
“We’re being realistic about restarting short-haul international flying, and have today delayed services to the Pacific, and to Bali, Indonesia, until at least December.
“We are continually reviewing our network to respond to the latest advice, and importantly looking at whether we can restart short-haul international flying, including to New Zealand earlier, should travel demand improve and circumstances change.
“Doing the right thing for our customers remains at the heart of our decision making, and while the impact is relatively low due to ongoing border uncertainty, we are working to provide affected customers with alternative options as quickly as possible.”