Given the current Omicron outbreak, Virgin Australia has announced that it will reduce its flight capacity by 25% in January and February and suspend its newly reinstated only international service to Fiji.
According to the airline, the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia has slowed down travel, with the country topping one million overall cases on Monday, with approximately half of those occurring in the previous week alone.
Frontline employees who are considered close contacts of confirmed COVID cases are frequently placed in seven-day isolation due to the industry’s continuous staff shortage.
Since the airline entered administration in 2020, Virgin has slashed capacity across its network and stopped flights on 10 of its routes, including its only international service to Fiji, which was reintroduced less than a month ago.
Despite the numerous alterations to the plan, CEO Jayne Hrdlicka claimed that the actions would have no long-term effect on the company or its customers.
“One thing we have learnt from the last two years is that we need to keep adapting as circumstances change. So, we will continue to do that and have made some temporary changes to our network to manage the current environment,” Hrdlicka said.
“We do know that as we make the shift to living with COVID-19, there will continue to be changes in all our lives, and we look forward to continuing to connect our guests with their families, friends, colleagues.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to any guest impacted by the changes to our flight schedule during this time.”
Virgin plans to “re-accommodate” customers who have already made reservations for the affected services, and it is urging them to do so.
Flight cancellations over the Christmas period impacted thousands of Australians, with dozens of flights being cancelled as the number of COVID cases began to increase, driving an increasing number of aviation staff into self-isolation due to being designated close contacts of other COVID-positive cases.
Many of our frontline crew are being forced to test and isolate as close contacts due to the increasing number of cases in the general community. As a result, we’ve made some last-minute alterations to our timetable,” a Jetstar spokesman said at the time of the announcement.
“We appreciate the frustration this causes, especially as customers are travelling for Christmas, and sincerely apologise for the impact these changes are having on travel plans.
“We are working to minimise any delays and re-accommodating passengers on flights as close as possible to their original departure times across both Jetstar and Qantas services.”
For instance, new vaccine regulations have been implemented, and state and federal governments have revised restrictions regarding close contacts in an attempt at order.
Under new rules announced by Premier Dominic Perrottet on Friday, aviation workers in New South Wales will soon be forced to take a booster shot, or third dosage, of the COVID-19 vaccine.
PM Scott Morrison said Sunday that the national cabinet contemplated modifying close contact regulations for frontline aviation workers to relieve pressure on understaffed sectors.
Even if aviation personnel have been exposed to COVID-19, they will be able to return to work as long as they are completely vaccinated and exhibit no symptoms of COVID.
Only home connections or those who have spent more than four hours constantly with a positive COVID case are now considered “near contacts” by the federal government to alleviate the pressure on significantly affected sectors and supply chains.