Virgin Australia has restarted commercial international flights for the first time since the start of the COVID crisis with its new daily Fiji service.
The 737-8FE, VH-YIQ msn 39925, departed Sydney Airport at 10:52am on 16 December as flight VA183 and landed in Nadi at 4:34pm local time.
The airline’s chief executive, Jayne Hrdlicka, was at the departure gate to host a party that included a performance by Fijian-Australian and 2022 Eurovision contestant, Paulini Curuenavuli.
“Australians love Fiji and Virgin Australia is getting travellers there at great value,” said Hrdlicka. “Prior to the pandemic, Virgin Australia held the highest market share of any other Australian carrier for services operated to Fiji and we aim to continue being very competitive.”
Virgin will expand its international network over the coming months, with the resumption of services between Melbourne and Brisbane and Fiji, before returning to Bali and Queenstown, New Zealand in the new year.
It follows Virgin announcing earlier this week it will switch its American codeshare partner from Delta to United.
The airline said the new arrangement, which will begin in April 2022, will triple its reach and unlock loyalty benefits for Velocity Frequent Flyer members.
United was the only American airline flying commercially between the two countries during the height of the pandemic, and still today offers more flights than any other US carrier.
Virgin had been working with rival Delta for more than a decade and said it will work with the business to transition its Velocity partnership, while existing bookings will be honoured.
United currently offers daily direct flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney, with flights from Houston and direct services to Melbourne expected to resume later in 2022.
Qantas is in a similar codeshare arrangement with United States’ biggest airline, American, as part of the Oneworld Alliance.
Earlier this week, Australian Aviation reported how Qantas will return to running long-haul international flights from Perth next year by launching a new service to Rome.
It comes after the flag carrier switched its London services from Perth to Darwin, and criticised the state’s “conservative border policies”.
The new Sydney-Perth-Rome route will launch on 22 June 2022 with its 787-9 Dreamliners and operate three times a week.
Qantas said it will be the only direct service between Australia and continental Europe.