Virgin Australia is grounding its entire domestic operations except for a single Sydney to Melbourne return service, running daily except for Saturdays, as coronavirus travel restrictions obliterate travel demand.
Australia’s number-two carrier had previously cut its network to 10 per cent of its normal schedule as it comes under significant financial pressure due to the health crisis.
Virgin will only fly one return service between Sydney and Melbourne a day. Credit:Edwina Pickles
The almost entire grounding of Virgin's network takes effect from Friday, with all other domestic flights through to June 15 cancelled.
Virgin will continue to operate government-funded international flights to bring stranded Australians home and charter flights.
“As a result of Government restrictions, less people are travelling and we have made changes to our schedules to reflect this,” a Virgin spokesman said in a statement.
“We continue to operate a daily service between Melbourne and Sydney, provide cargo transport locally and overseas, and operate charter flights including assisting the Government in bringing Australians home.”
Virgin has stood down around 8000 of its 10,000 workers and has asked government for a $1.4 billion loan to ensure it can survive the coronavirus shutdown.
Qantas is also operating a significantly reduced domestic network, and is flying Sydney to Melbourne only five times a week compared to 50 times a day before the pandemic.
Qantas continues to operate to each capital city and 25 regional destinations, however, at reduced frequencies. It said on Thursday it was set to carry 95 per cent fewer passengers this Easter compared to last year.
"We’ve further cut our domestic flights because of various travel restrictions and their impact on demand," a Qantas spokesman said.
"Earlier this week we had some flights with only a handful of passengers on board,
which just isn’t sustainable."
The larger airline has stood down around 20,000 workers.
Federal transport minister Michael McCormack said on Thursday he acknowledged Qantas and Virgin had "significantly reduced their domestic and international services", and that he continued to "talk to airline executives on a regular basis as we navigate this unprecedented situation".
The government has so far announced close to $1 billion in support for the aviation industry, consisting of waived fees and levies and including $300 million just for regional operators.
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