The huge change coming to Australian flights to stop the spread of coronavirus on board – but it could make travel more expensive
- Australian flights to have social distancing measures to stop spread of COVID-19
- People travelling on Virgin Australia flights will have seat next to them blocked
- Virgin Australia announced they will have 64 return flights operating per week
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Australian flights will have social distancing measures to ensure passengers are sitting away from each other to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Passengers travelling on domestic Virgin Australia flights will have the seat next to them blocked as part of a new social distancing policy.
The new measures will be applied through the airline’s reservation system which can cap flights and block seats between people travelling together.
Virgin Australia made the announcement on Friday and will operate 64 return domestic flights, underwritten by the federal government, for eight weeks.
There are fears that the new system could cause the price of tickets to soar because the airline will need to recover the costs of the redundant seats.
Passengers travelling on domestic Virgin Australia flights will have the seat next to them blocked as part of a new social distancing policy
French nationals queue to enter Sydney’s international airport to be repatriated back to France amid the coronavirus pandemic
The social distancing policy also includes a simplified onboard menu which is aimed at reducing contact between passengers and airline crew.
All guests will receive complimentary water and a snack but food and beverages will no longer be available to buy throughout the flight.
Virgin Australia General Manager Customer Service Delivery, Paul Woosnam, said the airline was excited to formally announce the social distancing policy.
‘While the risk of contracting coronavirus on an aircraft is deemed low we have put in place social distancing measures on our flights for the health and safety of our passengers and crew who are always our number one priority,’ Mr Woosnam said in a statement.
‘We hope this new policy, along with the flexible booking options we are already giving travellers, instills confidence in people who are required to travel for essential reasons,’ he said.
Virgin hopes the minimal domestic schedule will allow Australians to get home safely and enable essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline will be able to reinstate some of its staff as it resumes limited domestic flights at the federal government’s request but may have to raise the price of domestic flights in order to make a profit.
Virgin Australia made the announcement on Friday and will operate 64 return domestic flights, underwritten by the federal government, for eight weeks
Virgin will reinstate some of the flight, cabin and ground crew and other operational staff it stood down during the COVID-19 fallout.
‘As a major Australian airline, we are proud to support the federal government in returning passengers home and enabling essential travellers to continue flying during this time,’ Virgin said in a release on Thursday night.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,526
New South Wales: 2,926
South Australia: 435
Western Australia: 541
Australian Capital Territory: 103
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,526
The flights will service most Australian capital cities and a number of regional airports including Broome, Kalgoorlie, the Gold Coast, Mackay, Cairns and Townsville.
The airline is already operating international repatriation flights to Los Angeles and Hong Kong at the government’s request, as well as transporting transport cargo and providing charter services.
The news comes as the federal government holds firm against Virgin’s pleas for a $1.4 billion bailout despite the airline being on the brink of collapse.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is instead putting pressure on the company’s shareholders, telling ABC radio on Thursday: ‘They’ve got deep pockets’.
‘We want to see Virgin continue, we want to see two airlines in the domestic market, but we’re not in the business of owning an airline,’ Mr Frydenberg said.
‘Where our focus has been is on providing industry-wide support.’
Virgin on Thursday announced a further seven-day trading halt for its shares to continue talks on financial aid and restructuring alternatives to help it weather the crisis.
But the airline didn’t identify who the talks are with.
Travellers adhere to social distancing rules as they check in for their flights at the Sydney International Airport