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Virgin resumes direct Hobart-Perth flights as WA threatens border closure

written by Hannah Dowling | October 29, 2021
Virgin Australia Boeing 737-8FE departs from Brisbane, at sunset. (Michael Marston)

Virgin Australia on Friday resumed its direct flights connecting Hobart and Perth ahead of the Christmas and summer holiday travel season.

The airline stated it will now continue to operate three services per week connecting the Western Australia and Tasmanian capitals, with up to 4,200 seats available per month.

While Tasmania and Western Australia have largely kept their domestic borders open to each other throughout the pandemic, this could soon change.

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The Tasmanian government announced last week that it would reopen its domestic borders to NSW and Victoria from 15 December, and reports suggest the state has already seen an influx in holiday bookings for the upcoming travel season.

This week, WA Premier Mark McGowan suggested that he would happily close his state’s border to other states, including Tasmania and South Australia, when they reopen their own domestic borders to NSW and Victoria.

After South Australia revealed that it would open its domestic border, McGowan said, “We’ll monitor what occurs in South Australia and whether they get cases and how soon they do, that may influence what we do with South Australia.

“We are continuing with our vaccination program to get as many people vaccinated as we can, making sure that we get through the Christmas period and the Christmas holidays before such time as we open to New South Wales and Victoria and potentially get cases [in WA].

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“So that we have high levels of vaccination, we don’t have to put in place restrictions over the Christmas holidays, and hopefully we can come through this whole experience pretty unscathed.”

Despite the threat, states are likely to adhere to their intentions to reopen to the country’s eastern states ahead of the busy summer season.

Virgin noted that bookings to Tasmania increased 90 per cent week-on-week following the Tasmanian government’s announcement about easing border restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Spirit of Tasmania ferry connecting Melbourne and the island state reported over $3 million in bookings in the three days following the announcement, while Hobart Airport stated it is expecting its busiest December yet, with 5 per cent more flights than it had in December 2019 – it’s previous record-breaking December.

Virgin Australia Group chief strategy and transformation officer Alistair Hartley said, “We’re already seeing a strong response to the Hobart and Perth services, and in anticipation for that demand growing even more in the coming months, Virgin Australia will increase to daily flights during the busy holiday period.

“Never before in Virgin Australia’s 21-year history have we operated this many Tasmanian services. Since September, we have launched six new routes to the Apple Isle and added an extra 20 flights per week out of Hobart and Launceston to our schedule.

“It means tens of thousands of Tasmanians each month can reconnect with loved ones or take a holiday and support Aussie tourism while at the same time allowing more of our fantastic team members to return to the skies.”

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