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Virgin Australia announces major COVID-19 recovery plan

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Virgin Australia says it plans to reach 100 per cent capacity by the end of the calendar year in the aftermath of crippling COVID-19 restrictions, with 373 aircraft and 220 cabin crew set to return to the skies.

As part of its staged comeback, the airline announced plans to bring in an additional 10 Boeing 737-800 aircraft to meet an expected surge in domestic tourism.

Between now and the June school holidays, Virgin Australia has committed to add more than 220 return flights per week to its schedule on key travel routes across the country.

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It comes after a year of rolling travel restrictions, which grounded hundreds of aircraft and left thousands without jobs across Australia as the airline’s capacity plummeted to 20 per cent at the height of the pandemic in June last year.

Australians ‘hungry to travel’

Speaking in Brisbane, the airline’s chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka outlined the airline’s recovery plan, with plans to reach 80 per cent capacity by mid-June.

“We are hopeful we will get back to 100 per cent by the end of this calendar year – that’s the burning desire,” Ms Hrdlicka said at a cabin crew training event.

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“Today, we are operating around 850 weekly return flights, and as we approach the June school holidays, we will add another 220 return flights per week to our schedule.”

It comes at a time when Ms Hrdlicka said Australians were increasingly hungry to travel again, with more than 75 per cent of tickets booked with the recovering airline from May onwards.

“We see a lot of demand in Australia. Those people who get back in the air are so excited to take their first steps to get back to normal,” she said.

New flight routes will be created between Melbourne and Hamilton Island and Melbourne and Darwin as part of the airline’s fast-tracked recovery efforts.

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka made the announcement today. Photo: AAP

Hundreds of cabin crew reemployed

Ms Hrdlicka said 220 Virgin staff who had been on a redeployment list during the pandemic are set to be reemployed.

Airline staff who were part of discontinued Tiger Australia’s international long-haul crews or regional aircraft teams had been on retrenchments lists since being stood down last year.

Virgin Australia announce they hope to increase flights and staff over the next year. Photo: AAP

“All new jobs will be first to alumni, so we can get as many people back in the family and back into the team,” Ms Hrdlicka said.

A recruitment drive is also underway for an additional 150 cabin crew roles.

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Ms Hrdlicka said she was hopeful domestic border closures would soon be “a thing of the past”.

From April 19, Virgin Australia will also bring in flights from Brisbane to Alice Springs and Brisbane to Mount Isa under a new leasing arrangement with Alliance Airlines.

Ms Hrdlicka called on the federal government to start opening its borders to countries with high vaccination rates, such as the US, the UK, Israel and Singapore.

“We need to get more confident in taking bold steps – reducing time in quarantine, changing quarantine rules for people who have been vaccinated,” she said.

It comes as delays to Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program threaten to push back plans for airlines to resume international travel.

Earlier this week, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said international borders may not be reopened, even after all Australians had been vaccinated.

But Ms Hrdlicka said she was confident Australia would open its borders to the world once the most vulnerable had been fully vaccinated.

ABC

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