Virgin Australia walks away from 10 flight routes with regional centres affected across the country
Virgin Australia has moved to stop flying to seven regional destinations as it continues its post-coronavirus restructure.
The airline today announced it would scrap a total of 10 separate flight routes.
Some regional flights to Uluru, Tamworth, Port Macquarie, Albury, Hervey Bay, Cloncurry and Mildura, as well as the Cloncurry to Mount Isa route, have been cut for the “foreseeable future”.
Additionally, its international service from Sydney to Tonga will not be resuming.
In a statement, a Virgin Australia spokesperson says it is not commercially viable to operate flights to the affected destinations with the expected demand.
The airline is restructuring its fleet to primarily use Boeing 737 aircraft, removing smaller planes commonly flown to regional destinations.
The announcement follows the company entering into voluntary administration in April during which time it ceased flights to these destinations due to subdued demand.
One-third of its workforce was made redundant.
Regions ‘surprised’, flight school dropped
In March this year, Virgin Australia pulled out of its plans for a flight training school in Tamworth, citing changed conditions within the industry as a result of the Australian bushfires and coronavirus, with no forecast for increased demand for new cadet pilots.
The Tamworth Regional Council commercial director for airport and aviation development, John Sommerlad, says Virgin’s decision to cease its Tamworth to Sydney route is not surprising.
“It wasn’t unexpected in view of the turbulent ride that the Virgin Australia Aviation Group has had in recent time,” he said.
“And also because of the impact the pandemic has had on airlines — not only in Australia but around the world.
“Virgin had also offloaded its ATR-72 fleet which were the aircraft that were used for servicing many of its regional Australia routes.
“Without those aircrafts it’s unviable for them to use bigger jets to come and go from ports like Tamworth.”
Mr Sommerlad says Tamworth is currently in talks with other carriers to service the Tamworth-Sydney route.
Mildura Airport chief executive Trevor Willcock said he was “surprised” at Virgin’s decision, which he first heard about through an online news article.
Until late March, Virgin Australia had operated daily return services between Melbourne and Mildura which Mr Willcock said had “really good loading factors”.
Last week, United States private equity firm Bain Capital was announced as the new owner of Virgin Australia, with the largest group of creditors voting in favour of the $3.5 billion sale.
Mr Willcock said he had not had any contact with Bain Capital since its takeover of Virgin, and while Mildura Airport management had kept in contact with officials at the airline itself, it did not receive any notice the Mildura-Melbourne service would be axed.
“We would have loved to have a discussion with them before that,” he said.