Virgin warns on domestic flights, Emirates slashes destinations

Queensland says it's serious about its bid for Virgin – but Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is scathing.

Queensland says it's serious about its bid for Virgin – but Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is scathing. Photo: AAP

Virgin Australia says it is likely to cut more domestic flights as the nation prepares to bunker down following new coronavirus travel restrictions.

Virgin said on Monday it expected its domestic schedule to be hit by travel bans introduced by the states and the federal government at the weekend.

The airline last week reduced domestic capacity across Virgin and Tigerair brands by 50 per cent and ceased its international operations in response to tightening quarantine measures.

Virgin said more information would be provided in coming days.

Regional airline Rex entered a trading halt on Monday pending an announcement to the ASX that it will cease passengers services in all states except Queensland.

Last week Regional Express announced a 45 per cent reduction in capacity, including suspending its Armidale, Newcastle and Port Augusta routes.

Elsewhere, Dubai carrier Emirates has slashed its passenger flight destinations to 13, down from 145.

The state-owned carrier said it would still fly to Australia, the US, Britain, Japan and Canada.

The company had just hours earlier announced a suspension of all passenger flights, but reversed that decision after receiving requests from governments and customers to support repatriation of travellers.

The United Arab Emirates, which is home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has all but closed its borders to travellers. There are exceptions for those transiting through or returning.

The airline said it would continue to operate cargo flights to transport essential goods, including medical supplies across the world.

It also said the company would reduce salaries for the majority of its employees for three months. It will not cut jobs.

Airlines around the world are struggling to cover their costs and pay salaries with their fleets grounded and countries shutting their borders to travellers.

In a statement released on Sunday, Emirates said it had tried to maintain passenger flights “for as long as feasible” to help travellers return home amid expanding travel bans, restrictions, and lockdowns.

Emirates Group chief executive and chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum described the situation as “an unprecedented crisis” and said “the world has literally gone into quarantine” due to the virus.

Air and travel companies have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic as demand plummets amid government-imposed bans and calls for increased social isolation measures.

Virgin’s larger rival Qantas last week stood down 20,000 – or two-thirds – of its workforce and slashed international travel to help it absorb the virus blow.

Qantas has also reduced its domestic capacity.

Sydney Airport on Monday said it was working through scheduling impacts with airline but it anticipated, and was planning for, a “significant but temporary reduction in international and domestic traffic”.

Travel firm Webjet has suspended trading on the ASX as it works on a proposed capital raising.

Flight Centre is in a voluntary trading suspension until at least March 30 as it works through the impact on its business.

More and more businesses are preparing to close their doors to comply with the latest travel and trading restrictions.

Licensed clubs, pubs, gyms, cinemas, casinos and places of worship are expected to close their doors from midday on Monday in their state.

South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are imposing two-week quarantine periods on people seeking to enter these states. Police will monitor travellers at checkpoints.

-with AAP

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