COVID-19

Virgin‘s massive change to travel

The airline had planned to start flying to countries in the Pacific, such as Fiji and Indonesia, from September.But a bombshell announcement in the Federal Budget on Tuesday night revealed international borders would not reopen until at least mid-2022 as a result of the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.Virgin said on Thursday it would continue with its planned resumption of some flights to New Zealand from September as the trans-Tasman bubble is now open.Virgin will operate Boeing 737 services between Sydney and Queenstown and Brisbane and Queenstown, as planned from mid-September.Melbourne to Queenstown services will come online from early December.“Because current demand for other New Zealand destinations (other than Queenstown) remains subdued, Virgin Australia will defer them from sale alongside services to Vanuatu, Samoa and the Solomon Islands for the time being,” Virgin Australia chief strategy officer Alistair Hartley said.“While we know some Australians are itching to travel overseas, it is clear that international travel won’t return to normal as quickly as first anticipated “We’re being realistic about restarting short-haul international flying.“Although we’ve seen positive developments with the trans-Tasman travel bubble and governments working exceptionally well to manage outbreaks, current demand for travel to New Zealand remains subdued, except for Queenstown, where customers are looking to travel over the September school holidays and the upcoming summer. “We are continually reviewing our network to respond to the latest advice, and importantly looking at whether we can restart short-haul international flying, including to New Zealand earlier, should travel demand improve and circumstances change.”Virgin Australia customers impacted by the changes will be contacted directly and provided with options for a full refund or a credit for future travel.Virgin’s decision comes after rival airline Qantas also pushed back its start date for international flights. Qantas announced on Wednesday it would move back its planned resumption of international passenger operations from the end of October to the end of December.“We remain optimistic that additional bubbles will open once Australia’s vaccine rollout is complete to countries who, by then, are in a similar position, but it’s difficult to predict which ones at this stage,” a Qantas spokeswoman said.

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