FLIGHTS FRENZY: Thousands of seats to Coast routes

 

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA has rushed to add thousands of seats between the Gold Coast and Melbourne following the Queensland Government's decision to re-open its border to Victoria.

The carrier will operate three return services from Gold Coast Airport to Melbourne per week from December 1, jumping to two return services a day by Christmas.

Virgin Australia General Manager Network and Revenue Management Russell Shaw said it was a critical step in reconnecting the country.

"We are already seeing a significant increase in traffic to our website and bookings between the two states, so we'll be resuming direct services from Melbourne to popular leisure destinations such as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns," he said.

"We know many Australians are excited to reunite with their loved ones and we remain hopeful that borders will continue to safely re-open in time for Christmas."

ACTIVITY GOES INTO OVERDRIVE AT AIRPORT

MONTHS of walking through an empty terminal and carpark are over for Gold Coast Airport boss Chris Mills, with activity tipped to go into overdrive ahead of next week's border reopening.

Just a week ago, Mr Mills admitted feeling "numb" about the future after months of looking at a near-empty arrivals board at the terminal.

"We're now in November and I've been seeing that screen like that since April. It's the same as walking through the carpark to a handful of cars - you get a bit numb after a while," he had said.

VICTORIA ELIMINATES COVID-19

Queensland Aircorp Limited CEO Chris Mills in an empty Gold Coast Airport. Flights will begin pouring back in next wee. Photo: Scott Powick Newscorp
Queensland Aircorp Limited CEO Chris Mills in an empty Gold Coast Airport. Flights will begin pouring back in next wee. Photo: Scott Powick Newscorp

But it's a very different story this week, with the number of flights set to more than double as the airport welcomes back greater Sydney from December 1.

"There is a real sense of relief with this news because we have been waiting to hear this since March 25," he said.

"It's not just the airport staff this affects, it's the people who make coffee at the terminals, the taxi drivers who pick people up and the new hotel, so everyone is looking forward to this.

"In normal times a week's notice would not be enough time to get ready but these days we are far more agile and we have been ready for quite a while."

Staff begin border opening celebrations on the rooftop at Rydges Hotel Coolangatta, led by General manager Luke Harley. The airport hotel staff are looking forward to more shifts once the tourists start using planes once more. Picture Glenn Hampson
Staff begin border opening celebrations on the rooftop at Rydges Hotel Coolangatta, led by General manager Luke Harley. The airport hotel staff are looking forward to more shifts once the tourists start using planes once more. Picture Glenn Hampson

The airport will this week welcome 34 flights in total, before the Greater Sydney reopening next week brings an expected further 46 planes from Sydney alone.

Mr Mills said the airport would grow increasingly busy in coming weeks.

"It will just get bigger and bigger and move very quickly and potentially in the last week of December we could have 200 flights coming on the Sydney route alone," he said.

"From Melbourne we could have 100 flights a week too and while these numbers are short of where we were pre-COVID, it signifies the demand which has been building for this opportunity.

"It has been hard to work through an empty carpark and terminal but our staff have been magnificent and it will be great to know the team will be able to see a busy airport again."

Pre-pandemic the airport averaged 420 weekly flights.

Virgin Australia Group reacted within hours, unveiling daily Sydney-Gold Coast services from December 1 and three services daily between the airports by Christmas.

Virgin Australia general manager for network and revenue management Russell Shaw said the Queensland Government's decision to reopen the border with Greater Sydney would help the airline and tourism industry get back on its feet and put more people back to work.

"We recognise our role as one of Queensland's largest employers and our ability to contribute to both the Queensland and New South Wales tourism economies," Mr Shaw said.

"Additional services will be timed to provide choice and convenience for customers, while at the same time give travellers the opportunity to do business and reconnect with loved ones, families and friends ahead of the well-earned Christmas break."

The news comes seven months after the initial COVID shutdown saw Gold Coast Airport's patronage figures fall 99 per cent after virtually all flights in and out of the city were cancelled.

Originally published as FLIGHTS FRENZY: Virgin adds thousands of seats to Coast routes


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