Virgin Australia Axes Regional Routes Following ATR Phase-Out
Under the new ownership of US-based Bain Capital, Virgin Australia will fly a significantly smaller domestic network using an all-Boeing 737 fleet.
Virgin Australia says in a statement that it plans to fly just 20 domestic routes across Australia, cutting nine domestic routes. These are financially unviable using the two Boeing 737-700 and 54 Boeing 737-800s it successfully renegotiated to retain, it says. The airline had been serving smaller regional routes using its ATR 72-500/600s which are being phased out.
The carrier also says it will stop flying its international service from Sydney to Nuku’alofa in Tonga.
The nine domestic routes are all served by other carriers, but Virgin Australia was the only carrier flying non-stop between Australia and Tonga. The airline is unlikely to fly internationally for the next two years, adds Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah.
Virgin Australia had earlier announced it had stopped flying some other domestic routes, including Sydney-Albury and Melbourne-Mildura, and adds it is unlikely to resume these soon given its limited fleet and subdued air travel demand.
It is returning or selling all its ATR 72-500/600s, Boeing 777-300ERs, Airbus A330-200s and ex-Tigerair Australia Airbus A320-200 aircraft, as well as 29 Boeing 737-800s, it says. Virgin Australia is shuttering its low-cost subsidiary Tigerair Australia.
The airline has yet to announce the fate of Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA), which was operating ATRs in addition to Airbus A320-200s and Fokker 100s. The group website still lists 14 Fokker 100s under VARA, which also operates fly-in fly-out services for resource companies in Western Australia.
Regional Express is reportedly buying ten ex-Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800s. Rex recently announced plans to launch narrowbody jet operations between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Smart Aviation APAC was unable to confirm with Rex’s spokespeople on the airline’s selection of aircraft.