Virgin Australia will suspend all flights out of the country for more than 2 months and cut half of all its domestic flights as well

Virgin Australia will ground all international flights for two and a half months (Photo by Steve Christo, Corbis via Getty Images)

In a further lockdown of transit in and out of the country, Virgin Australia will temporarily suspend all international flights.

On Wednesday, the airline announced it would cancel all flights in and out of the country between 31 March and 14 June and slash domestic flights as the coronavirus shuts down countries around the world.

“We have entered an unprecedented time in the global aviation industry, which has required us to take significant action to responsibly manage our business while balancing traveller demands and supporting the wellbeing of Australians,” Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah said in a statement to the ASX.

“We have responded by making tough decisions which include reducing our domestic capacity and phasing in the temporary suspension of international flying for a period of two and a half months.”

In fact, the impact will extend beyond that with Virgin also reducing flights leading up to 30 March. Virgin said it would also suspend the Melbourne to Los Angeles service from 20 March, as well as postpone new flight paths from Brisbane to Tokyo’s Haneda airport, and Melbourne to Denpasar, Indonesia from 29 March.

The airline may not have had much choice, with the announcement coming as the Federal Government urges Australians to not leave the country.

“We are upgrading the travel ban on Australians to level 4 for the entire world,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, addressing media. “That is the first time that has ever happened in Australia’s history. The travel advice to every Australian is, ‘do not travel abroad, do not go overseas’,”.

“What we have agreed is that the advice is that air travel, domestic air travel, is low risk.”

On that domestic front, Virgin blamed “weakened demand” for reducing domestic flights by 50% over the same two and a half month period, with the actual schedule expected to be published over the next week.

“Guests with new or existing domestic and international bookings through to 30 June 2020 have the option to change their flight to a later date, and/or a different destination without incurring a change fee,” Jetstar said in the statement. “Guests who no longer wish to travel can cancel their flight and retain the value of the booking as a travel credit.”

Customers affected by the changes will be contacted by the airline over the next fortnight, while Australians broadly look like theyll be giving up their holidays for much longer.