Virgin Australia will axe all flights to New Zealand, Bali and Fiji until at least June due to ongoing uncertainty about when international travel can resume.
The major airline announced today all short-haul international services would be cancelled until June 19, throwing doubt around any reopening of the trans-Tasman bubble by the April date floated by NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The suspension of flights covers flights to New Zealand, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu.
Virgin’s decision comes after Australia’s federal government decided to suspend its travel bubble with New Zealand on January 25 after the detection of a case of COVID-19 in the community. The suspension was lifted on January 31.
“Because of ongoing international border closures and government restrictions, it is likely to be an extended period of time before we’re able to appropriately resume short-haul international flying,” a Virgin spokesman said.
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“We are hopeful that countries will develop safe-travel zones but need to be realistic considering operational limitations and the uncertainty around frameworks that support the sensible opening and closing of borders.”
Customers impacted by cancelled flights will be contacted and have the ability to rebook or seek reimbursement.
Virgin Australia said it intended to remain flexible in its approach and would reassess if quarantine-free travel with New Zealand, the Pacific Islands or parts of Indonesia was brought forward.
The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the aviation and travel industry.
Virgin Australia entered voluntary administration in March, with private equity firm Bain Capital acquiring the company for restructure in order to make it profitable.
Rival airline group Qantas has not announced any changes to its operating schedule regarding short-haul international journeys.
New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern gave the green light for a trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia to launch by March 2021.
Ms Ardern said towards the end of 2020 that her Cabinet agreed to establish the quarantine-free corridor in the first quarter of 2021, providing Australia can keep COVID-19 case levels low and pending Australia’s Cabinet approval. This would mean that Aussie travellers would not need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in New Zealand.
But that timeline was thrown into doubt when New Zealand confirmed more cases linked to a quarantine hotel in Auckland.
The decision was made by Australia’s Federal Government to cancel the quarantine-free flights across the ditch. That suspension was lifted on January 31, however, people in New Zealand wanting to travel to Australia must have been in New Zealand and out of hotel quarantine for at least a fortnight.