Virgin Australia has announced the addition of 10,000 new seats across two new routes ahead of the September school holidays, which skirt the border closures that currently impact the country’s most populous states.
From September, Virgin Australia will fly direct from Adelaide to Launceston for the very first time, as well as re-introduce direct flights between Adelaide and Darwin.
Notably, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are currently the only three states without major travel restrictions in place, and people can freely move between these states.
The news will add over 4,000 seats per month between Adelaide and Launceston, with three return services per week, as well as 6,000 seats per month between the South Australia capital and Darwin, with four return services per week.
“With open borders between South Australia and Tasmania and Northern Territory, we’re able to finally start direct flights between Adelaide-Darwin, as well as offer a new direct service between Adelaide-Launceston,” said Dave Emerson, Virgin Australia chief commercial officer.
“With the September school holiday period fast approaching, we know our great value and fully flexible airfares will help families who are able to travel, to experience all of the wonderful things to see and do in and around Adelaide, Launceston and Darwin.”
It comes as the airline continues discussions with unions over the possible stand-down of over 1,000 of its employees, after more than half of the country was plunged into lockdown and state borders once again snapped shut.
The current outbreak, which started in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in late June, resulted in over 9,000 flight cancellations that month alone, making up nearly 25 per cent of all flights for the month.
Emerson said the new routes, accompanied with a short-term fare sale, will see “more of our team members in the air and more business for the many hundreds of tourism operators and hospitality venues who rely on the economic injection tourists provide their communities”.
The rumours of impending stand-down announcement at Virgin began to circulate just days after rival Qantas announced it would also temporarily stand down 2,500 workers across the airline and its budget subsidiary Jetstar, after it saw its capacity reduce from almost 100 per cent in May to just 40 per cent in July.
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the federal government’s new Retaining Domestic Airline Capability scheme, which would see airline staff outside of COVID lockdown hotspots gain access to JobKeeper-style payments of $750 per week.
Previously, stood-down workers in aviation could only gain access to financial support if they live in areas that are locked down, through the government’s general COVID-19 Disaster Payment scheme.
The looming stand-downs come after Virgin was on the up, recently snatching back 28 per cent of the domestic market share, and sending Qantas’ share below 70 per cent.
Off the back of Virgin’s capacity boost, the airline announced in May that it would welcome more than 400 new staff members to its ranks, from pilots, cabin crew and ground services roles.
The airline made the announcement alongside revealing plans to launch five new services and significantly increase frequency across its network, including by 30 per cent on the ‘Golden Triangle’.
Virgin said at that time it would introduce five new services to allow for greater connection from capital cities to major regional destinations: Adelaide-Cairns, Perth-Cairns, Sydney-Townsville, Melbourne-Townsville and Sydney- Darwin.
It said it would also increase flight frequencies to key Queensland destinations, including Brisbane, the Whitsunday Coast, Hamilton Island, Cairns, Townsville, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast by up to 40 per cent.
Finally, services on the so-called Golden Triangle between Sydney-Brisbane-Melbourne were to increase by 30 per cent to support business travel, with an average of 100 flights every day by October.