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Virgin suspends all international flights

Anastasia Santoreneos
·2-min read
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group waves an Australian flag from the cockpit of a A-330 passenger jet after touching down in Sydney, Australia, on Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Branson and John Borghetti, CEO, Virgin Blue Group of Airlines unveiled the new look and re-naming of Virgin Blue to Virgin Australia at a media conference and event at Sydney Airport. Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg    ***Local Caption***    Sir Richard Branson.
Virgin suspends international flights. Source: Getty

Virgin Australia has announced it will suspend all international flights and will extend cuts to domestic capacity as the coronavirus outbreak takes its toll on the airline sector.

The airline on Wednesday said it will suspend all international flying from March 30 to June 14 and reduce group domestic capacity by 50 per cent. This is the equivalent of grounding 53 aircraft.

It comes as Qantas revealed on Tuesday it would cut 90 per cent of its international flights, equivalent to grounding 150 aircraft on Tuesday.

Virgin said it will operate a reduced international schedule between now and March 29 to enable Australians to return home and visitors to return to their point of origin.

Virgin’s overseas counterpart, Virgin Atlantic, announced on Monday it would cut 80 per cent of flights and ground 75 per cent of its fleet by March 26.

The remainder of its fleet would be grounded by April.

The overseas carrier also asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave over the next three months, and has offered some staff sabbaticals of six-to-12 months.

Airlines receive rescue package

As airlines continue to suffer amid the virus outbreak, the federal government announced on Tuesday it would offer refunds and waived fees for airline operators to the tune of $715 million.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the government would backdate refunds to February 1, with the move expected to create an upfront benefit of $159 million.

"Our airlines run on tight budgets at the best of times and these past few weeks have been particularly tough," McCormack on Wednesday.

"I've been speaking with Australian airline executives every day and will continue to work with them to make sure they receive the support they need."

Fears for airline operators

Virgin’s announcement comes days after the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) said most world airlines could be bankrupt by the end of May.

“As the impact of the coronavirus and multiple government travel reactions sweep through our world, many airlines have probably already been driven into technical bankruptcy, or are at least substantially in breach of debt covenants,” the CAPA stated.

“Cash reserves are running down quickly as fleets are grounded and what flights there are operate much less than half full.

“Forward bookings are far outweighed by cancellations and each time there is a new government recommendation it is to discourage flying.

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