Virgin records a 40% jump in bookings as discounted ticket start flooding the Australian market

Virgin Australia says ticket sales are already soaring. (Steve Christo, Corbis via Getty Images)
  • Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka says bookings are already up 40% on the back of a flight sales.
  • Virgin and Qantas are both running sales ahead of the federal government’s tourism package, that will subsidise 50% of the price of 800,000 tickets available from April 1.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said more destinations would be added in the coming weeks, amid criticism of the program.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Interstate holidays are back as the country’s airlines begin encouraging Australians to fly again.

Speaking on Friday, Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said the airline had enjoyed a resurgence in ticket sales since the federal government’s announcement of its $1.2 billion tourism package.

“We can see the activity lifting already yesterday immediately following the announcement…our bookings were up 40% yesterday, Hrdlicka said. “The half price fares aren’t yet out there.”

Exiting administration less than four months ago, rebounding demand for domestic tourism would appear to mark a turning point for Virgin and the aviation sector more broadly that has been hamstrung for the last 12 months with grounded planes and closed state borders.

“We can clearly see Australia’s hungry to get out and about and get back to normal while staying safe,” Hrdlicka said.

Certainly the federal government’s tourism package is intended to fuel domestic demand, offering half price tickets and putting pressure on state premiers to keep their respective states open.

However, as Hrdlicka correctly points out, those tickets aren’t even on sale until next month. Instead Virgin and Qantas are both running their own sales in an effort to create a pipeline of business into the second half of the year.

With cooped up Australians having squirrelled away their savings over the last 12 months there’s a captive market. So too because delays to the national vaccine program and a 2022 completion date means the prospect of international travel remains distant.

More destinations to be added to the cheap ticket list

The program in the meantime is expected to be expanded at least in terms of where Australians can fly.

“It is an initial list and so we’ll revisit. We will look at it,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told media in Melbourne. “We will certainly look at those other centres and other destinations as well.”

It comes after Victorian deputy premier James Merlino criticised the fact that just one Victorian destination was on the list. Meanwhile Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick vented his frustrations that Queenslanders weren’t able to visit any of the five Sunshine State destinations as part of the program’s emphasis on interstate travel.

“Queenslanders are prohibited from holidaying in their own state under this half-baked, half-price flight scheme,” Dick said.

While the Deputy PM compared the federal government to “a white knight” on a “shining white horse” coming in to save tourism, the industry itself disagrees.

With the 800,000 half price tickets amounting to around two weeks of full demand by the estimation of Flight Centre, the package has been disparaged as “meagre”.

The program is firmly focused on Qantas and Virgin instead of tourism operators themselves. While Hrdlicka might be praising ticket sales, an undisclosed agreement to subsidise 8,600 airline jobs is a much more valuable deal to Australia’s two national carriers.

No such luck for those almost 70,000 other workers in high-risk positions, facing mass redundancies at the end of the month.