New planes and expanded services form Virgin Australia's runway to recovery

New planes and expanded services form Virgin Australia's runway to recovery

10 additional planes, expanded frequencies, and new and extended seasonal services are all part of Virgin Australia's plans to take advantage of pent-up demand for interstate travel.

Announced today, Virgin's fast-tracked plans will see more than 220 cabin crew return to the skies as the airline commits to supporting the domestic travel market.

The recovery efforts include an agreement with aircraft lessors for an additional 10 Boeing 737-800 aircraft to facilitate network growth, and the planned return of more than 80 per cent of the airline's pre-pandemic domestic capacity by mid-June.

Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said the airline was strongly focused on its domestic recovery program.

"We are building a strong and disciplined business, obsessed with providing our customers the very best of Virgin Australia travel experiences," Hrdlicka said.

"More aircraft means more flying, and with easing travel restrictions, there are more opportunities to further support domestic tourism and the nation's economic recovery from COVID-19.

"Today, we are operating around 850 weekly return flights, and as we approach the June school holidays, we will add another 220 return flights per week to our schedule. By mid-June, we expect to be operating more than 80 per cent of our pre-COVID domestic capacity."

The CEO also said she hoped domestic border closures will soon be a thing of the past with positive signs of improved consumer confidence proving encouraging.

"We've had multiple record-breaking sales days of half-priced fares, with more than 75 per cent of the tickets being booked for travel from May onwards," she said.

"All of this will provide much-needed certainty for hundreds of our team members, who through no fault of their own, were required to give up their jobs because of the extraordinary impacts of the pandemic.

"We are thrilled to be able to welcome many of them back to Virgin Australia."

The airline has also entered into arrangements with Alliance Airlines (ASX: AQZ) to operate services on behalf of Virgin between Brisbane to Alice Springs and Brisbane to Mt Isa from 19 April 2021.

Using an Airbus A320 aircraft, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) will also move to operate select services on mainline routes between Perth to Darwin, Perth to Broome and Perth to Adelaide from next month.

"Between now and the June school holidays, the airline will add more than 220 return flights per week to its schedule, offering new and extended seasonal services and expanded frequencies on key business and leisure routes," says Virgin Australia.

"Trans-Tasman services to Queenstown are set to recommence ahead of school holidays on 18 September 2021."

New and extended seasonal services include:

  • Melbourne Hamilton Island (3 flights per week from 08 June to 31 October)
  • Melbourne Darwin (daily flights from 10 June to 31 October)
  • Brisbane Launceston (4 flights per week from 17 June to 25 July) seasonal extension
  • Melbourne Ballina Byron Bay (5 flights per week from 09 June to 31 October) seasonal extension
  • Brisbane Queenstown (4 flights per week from 18 September)
  • Sydney Queenstown (4 flights per week from 18 September)

Expanded frequencies include:

  • Sydney - Perth (up to 4 flights per day by 23 May)
  • Melbourne - Perth (up to 6 flights per day by 23 May)
  • Sydney - Adelaide (up to 5 flights per day by 23 May)
  • Melbourne Adelaide (Up to 9 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Brisbane - Adelaide (up to 5 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Sydney - Gold Coast (up to 9 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Melbourne - Gold Coast (up to 8 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Melbourne - Sydney (up to 25 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Melbourne - Brisbane (up to 13 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Brisbane - Sydney (up to 15 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Sunshine Coast - Melbourne (up to 3 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Sunshine Coast - Sydney (up to 3 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Brisbane - Townsville (up to 4 flights per day by 20 June)
  • Brisbane - Mackay (up to 4 flights per day by 20 June)

The company's latest plan sees the airline on a path to recovery after its delisting from the ASX and a $3.5 billion takeover by US investment company Bain Capital.

That restructure saw former CEO Paul Scurrah step away from the airline, replaced by former A2M (ASX: A2M) CEO Hrdlicka.

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