Virgin grounds international flights

Virgin Australia will suspend its international operations from 30 March and halve its domestic flying capacity, in the wake of the government’s level 4 travel bans and diminished travel demand locally.

The new travel bans mean Australians have been advised not to travel anywhere in the world and returning Australians travellers and international travellers to Australia are now required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

A statement issued by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Wednesday reads:

“We now advise all Australians: do not travel overseas at this time. This is our highest advice level (level 4 of 4).

“If you are already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.

“Regardless of your destination, age or health, if your overseas travel is not essential, consider carefully whether now is the right time.

“As more countries close their borders or introduce travel restrictions, overseas travel is becoming more complex and difficult. You may not be able to return to Australia when you had planned to. Consider whether you have access to health care and support systems if you get sick while overseas. If you decide to return to Australia, do so as soon as possible. Commercial options may become less available.”

Virgin’s cuts actually preceded Qantas’ grounding of all international flights this week.

Total Qantas Group International capacity will be grounded and domestic capacity will be cut by around 60 per cent until at least the end of May 2020, to reflect the demand impact of severe quarantine requirements on people’s ability to travel overseas.

Qantas has grounded around 150 aircraft, while Virgin will ground around 53 aircraft. The cuts will affect an estimated 30,000 airline staff – or more. 

“We have entered an unprecedented time in the global aviation industry, which has required us to take significant action to responsibly manage our business while balancing traveller demands and supporting the wellbeing of Australians,” said Virgin Australia managing director Paul Scurrah.

Virgin will operate a reduced international schedule between now and 29 March to help Australians to return home and visitors to return to their point of origin.

Virgin has set up an online dedicated customer care hub to deal with customer queries and travel changes.

Guests with new or existing domestic and international bookings through to 30 June 2020 could change their flight to a later date and/or a different destination without incurring a fee.

Those who no longer wish to travel can cancel their flight and receive a travel credit.

Passengers booked on international flights between 30 March and 14 June will be contacted by Virgin Australia within the next two weeks.

Passengers who have booked with travel agents should contact their travel agents or agents will contact them.

“Guests are advised that due to the large number of schedule changes they should not contact the airline unless they are travelling in the next 24 hours or need immediate assistance to return home or to their point of origin,” said Virgin.

If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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