Virgin Airlines will ground its entire international fleet in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline made the announcement in a statement to the ASX on Wednesday. All international flights will be suspended from March 30 until at least June 14.
The airline is also slashing domestic capacity to 15%.
At least 450 people in Australia have tested positive while five people have died after contracting COVID-19, one in WA, three in NSW and one in Queensland.
The virus has killed more than 7,000 people worldwide and continues to spread at a rapid pace.
“We have entered an unprecedented time in the global aviation industry,” said Virgin Australia boss Paul Scurrah.
″[That] has required us to take significant action to responsibly manage our business while balancing traveller demands and supporting the wellbeing of Australians.”
Government Upgrades Travel Ban
On Wednesday Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked all Australians to cancel any overseas travel plans going forward.
“We are upgrading the travel ban on Australians to level four for the entire world. 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,’ the PM told media.
“That is very clear, that instruction. For those who are thinking of going overseas in the school holidays, don’t. Don’t go overseas. The biggest risk we have had and the biggest incidents of cases we have had, which Dr Murphy can go into, has been from Australians returning from overseas.”
Qantas Cuts International Flights
It comes after Qantas announced it would cut its international capacity by around 90% until at least the end of May as travel demand to Australia plunges because of new restrictions on arrivals related to the coronavirus.
The changes mean the grounding of 150 aircraft, up from plans to ground 38 announced last week. This includes 60% of the airline’s domestic flights.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday said all international arrivals, including its own citizens, would need to self-isolate for 14 days, in a move that significantly dented demand for travel. Those international visitors caught not self-isolated could cop a fine of up to $50k, depending on what state they’re in.
Qantas said it would have a significant labour surplus across its operations as a result and the impact was likely to be felt across its workforce of 30,000 people.
“The Qantas Group is working to manage this impact as much as possible, including through the use of paid and unpaid leave,” the airline said in a statement.
“This will be in addition to the measures already announced, including three months of no pay for the CEO and chairman, significant pay cuts for group executive management and board members and cancelling of all annual bonuses and an off-market buyback,” it said.
The route-by-route impact will be announced in the coming days, the airline said, noting that it was grounding almost all of its widebody fleet.
Air New Zealand will cut long-haul capacity by 85%.