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Virgin partners with Link for Sydney–Canberra flights

written by Adam Thorn | December 2, 2021

A Link Airways Saab 340B, VH-VEM (Virgin)

Virgin has partnered with Link Airways to resume its service between Sydney and Canberra, which it paused at the start of the pandemic.

The news comes alongside the ACCC giving the larger airline permission to collaborate with Alliance on 41 routes, including between the NSW and ACT cities.

The decision could potentially anger Rex, which strongly criticised the competition commission’s decision and expanded into the same route itself earlier this year. There is no suggestion any airline has broken any rules.

From 30 January 2022, Virgin will operate more than 50 services a week between the two cities under an exclusive agreement with Link, which will use its 34-seat Saab 340 B Plus aircraft.

Customers on the short flights, which will run up to nine times on weekdays, will receive complimentary tea, coffee and water.

“The agreement with Link Airways will extend the Virgin Australia domestic network reach into markets like Sydney-Canberra that its own 737-800 aircraft cannot serve effectively,” said Virgin in a statement.

“As the airline quickly ramps up capacity across domestic and short-haul international services it will continue to evaluate new destinations and opportunities to connect Australia.


“Since September, Virgin Australia has launched 15 new services, some of which have never been operated in the airline’s 21-year history, as the revitalised business takes flight under new ownership.”

Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said the service will provide more than 16,000 seats each month and eligible customers will have access to Virgin’s Canberra lounge.

Virgin’s decision to partner with Link comes alongside the ACCC granting authorisation for Virgin and Alliance to collaborate on 41 regional routes, including Sydney – Canberra.


The deal allows the two airlines to share information on cost, capacity, and flight schedules with Alliance in order to help serve smaller towns with its post-administration, stripped back fleet.

In its initial ruling, the ACCC said, “The co-operation will allow Virgin Australia and Alliance Airlines to share information, and to agree on service capacity, schedules and potentially revenue sharing on the routes on which they operate, including for new routes not currently serviced by either airline.

“The co-operation will mean that Virgin Australia and Alliance Airlines will not compete with each other on the routes covered by the agreement.”

In April 2021, it granted final permission for the tie up until March 2023.

Qantas held an effective monopoly on flights between the two cities until Rex launched its own service earlier this year, accusing Qantas of “fare gouging” and overcharging customers.

Rex said it would initially fly seven return flights a day between Canberra and Sydney from 19 April, but could increase that to 10.

It has begun reinstating domestic services, including using its 737s, since mid-November, and is currently operating 15 flights per week between the two cities.

Qantas currently flies a mixture of larger 717s and smaller Dash 8s on the route.

Comments (8)

  • Ashley



    This’ll give Sharp a run for his money.
    He hates any other airline competing on routes’ he’s pushed into.

  • Warwick


    So Rex started spouting 7-10 DAILY flights SYDCBRSYD in April 2021, but is now down to 15 flights a WEEK!

    Big difference between the two, which means it’s not been too profitable for them.

    But that’s the way ‘competition’ works.

  • AgentGerko


    I hate to say it but I’ll being opting for the QF 717s over a bouncy ride in an A340B with either Rex or Link or even a larger QF Dash* 8. Gimme a jet everytime as they fly above most of the weather and beside, the B717 is a little rocket. It also offers the only Business Class option. Hopefully if VA can succeed on this route they might operate a few flights with an Alliance F70, but very hard to be successful on this route as public servants are only interested in getting their QF FF points.

    • Mahoney


      The jets will only operate up to 20-25,000 feet on such a short sector, so there won’t be much of an ‘above the weather’ advantage. The 717’s speed advantage is also nullified somewhat due to ATC speed restrictions imposed for sequencing other traffic, especially into SYD. There may even be an advantage for the turboprops into CBR as they can use the shorter runway 30; the jets can’t. This could make up to 25nm difference in gthe arrival flight distance. There is also the problem of allocated ‘slot’ times, which make ‘racing’ irrelvant.
      Agree with your comment on the PS’s QF FF points though, probably at the top of most of their priority list….

  • Jeffrey Lock


    Basically flying Syd-Canb takes from home to airport a min of 2.5 hours, length of flight say 1 hour, then travel from Canb airport to Canb/destination another hour. Driving Syd/Canb takes 3.5 hour, door to door, return time say 1 hour less, – what am I missing???
    The preferred solution would be a Very Fast Time which would travel more or less 100% of the time – against flying – lengthy delays waiting for takeoff at both Syd and Can, fog, rain, winds, broken down aircraft, waiting for pilots to arrive at work (both Syd and Canb), etc etc.
    Every Federal Elections since 1960’s have raised the building of the VFT but nothing has happened except high levels very hot air and extreme levels of CO2 – all contributing to Global Warming – is it not time to do more than talk about matters raised some 60+ years ago???

  • Warren Whittaker


    Competition on the SYD-CBR route will help customers balance comfort and full service (Qantas Q400, B717 and B737) verses cost on A340 of both REX and Link. Qantas passengers will unaffected by this announcement, as a majority of passengers on this route are government related fares. The biggest loser will be REX but expect John Sharp to have a tantrum on the media shortly.

    • Vannus


      Yes, Warren, what you said is correct re: Sharp, & that’s what he’s ‘best’ at doing.

      Whingeing about QANTAS, & its’ CEO, MR Alan Joyce, constantly since March 2020, he does his airline Rex no favours whatsoever.

      Folk are fed up hearing his constant verbiage.

  • phil


    Remember – it’s a SAAB 340B+ .. NOT an Airbus, Dunno what the clowns implying otherwise

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