Virgin Australia took the axe to a number of its flights yesterday, the same day the airline held its annual general meeting. In a widely expected move, the daily Melbourne – Hong Kong service is ceasing in February 2020 and a number of other routes are set to go.
The demise of the flagship Melbourne – Hong Kong service surprised no-one. It had been performing poorly, a problem exacerbated by the current woes in Hong Kong. Six months ago, Virgin Australia CEO, Paul Scurrah announced a review of costs at the airline, saying every route would have the bean counters run over it.
Then, just last month, Virgin Australia picked up one of the hotly contested slot pairs at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and simultaneously did a joint venture deal with ANA. Virgin Australia’s ‘Asian Pivot’ through Hong Kong suddenly looked so very yesterday.
Mr Scurrah said yesterday:
“Flying to the right destinations, with the right customer demand, and the right sized fleet will improve our financial performance.”
The other international route set to end at the end of April 2020 is Sydney – Christchurch. Virgin Australia is only flys there three times a week at present, so how much the service will be missed is debatable. While talking about New Zealand, the Sydney – Auckland route will be trimmed back from 19 services a week to 14 services a week – still a double daily service.
What one hand takes away, another gives. Virgin Australia is starting a Melbourne – Denpasar service in March 2020.
Cuts to domestic services
In addition to the above cuts to international services, there have been some cuts to domestic routes as well.
In September 2018, Virgin Australia began twice weekly seasonal services between Gold Coast and Perth. It was a barebones services for a transcontinental trek but it was a welcome move by Gold Coast airport users like myself.
Said one regular on an airline forum:
“Hopefully Virgin get enough traction on this to extend to at least a 12-month trial. It is a niche market so 2 to 3 times a week to start would be ideal and if the route does get an extension, maybe ramping up to 4-5 times a week over the winter school holiday periods as not all from Western Australia wish to go to Bali!!!. Even before the service has started, VA has an advantage over Jetstar in that these flights are being operated during daytime hours and not as a dreaded red-eye (other than the one off on the 20th of December). The flight schedule itself will be a winner with many.”
Well, it looks like the service didn’t get enough traction because it is ending in mid January 2020. That’s a month later that the Canberra – Perth route which was also an irregular service, tending to time with end of the parliamentary sitting week. Maybe a reason why these flights didn’t succeed was their lack of frequency.
But in a win for Hobart, the Hobart – Perth service, another newish “experimental” route seems to have survived.
The final route to feel the chill winds of Mr Scurrah’s route review is Sydney – Tamworth which is dropping back from double daily to six times weekly.
Frankly, I feel it could have been worse. Tamworth has taken a hit, but other regional services survived and non capital city airports kept their air services. Mr Scurrah said yesterday:
“We maintain a strong network of destinations and it’s important that our schedule continues to reflect demand from our business and leisure customers.”
Virgin Australia’s low cost subsidiary, Tiger Airways, has also cut some services in Australia, but that’s a story for the weekend.
Categories: Virgin Australia