By Benjamin Pham
Virgin Australia Begins New Flights Amid Open Domestic Borders
The airline industry continues to feel the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 ordeal, which has forced several major carriers to be more alert and prepared than usual for massive changes. In addition, there is a consistent notion to resume flight operations and rebuild route networks, as the carriers attempt to recapture as much as the remaining market, despite the persistent travel restrictions. Australia has not reopened its borders for long-haul travel and entry, but Virgin Australia devised the plan to pivot itself towards bolstering its domestic network as borders between some territories reopened.
Australia’s second-largest carrier recently operated its new, first nonstop flights from Adelaide to Launceston, after announcing the launch of new flight services in early-August. Flights will operate three times a week, as borders are open between the two territories of South Australia and Tasmania.
“Virgin Australia is really proud to launch our inaugural direct Adelaide-Launceston services in time for the September school holiday period,” Alistair Hartley, Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer, Virgin Australia, said in a press release.
The Brisbane-based carrier looks to navigate the ongoing domestic border restrictions and plans to make the necessary changes to rebuild and expand its route network. While international long-haul travel is limited, the airline will focus on its domestic routes and service, reintroducing flights from its hubs and focus cities to a variety of leisure destinations.
“The pandemic and the resulting border restrictions have allowed Virgin Australia to pivot our network schedule and open up new services that support the local tourism economy and provide more working hours for our people. Already this month we have commenced operation of new direct services between Adelaide and Cairns and Adelaide and Darwin,” Hartley added.
While Virgin Australia is currently capitalizing on the existing, open domestic borders and strengthening its domestic network, the opportunity to restart international flights is not far away as in late-August, the carrier announced its company-wide push to require all its employees to be vaccinated. The rise and continuing support for vaccinations look to be one of the last glimmers of hope for reopening the country’s borders to travelers from other nations, as local support grows.
The airline’s front-line employees are required and expected to be fully vaccinated before November 15, while its office-based workers need to be fully vaccinated before March 31 of next year. Long-haul flights are expected to resume by the end of the year, which is also when Qantas — its fierce, competitive rival — plans to recommence international flights through its own strategy.
Clearly, Virgin Australia strives to firmly hold on to its domestic route network and resume new flights from its main bases. The country’s reopening and resumption of long-haul flights may be closer than expected, as the airline plans to restore normalcy and safety through establishing vaccine requirements for its employees. As the airline navigates its way out of the effects of COVID-19, the carrier will need to be prepared for operating long-haul flights, as it adapts to the transformative changes.