Six months after exiting the mid-north New South Wales coastal city of Coffs Harbour, Virgin Australia is restoring flights to the holiday and lifestyle hotspot. Year-round flights are resuming from Sydney on November 11. Seasonal services from Melbourne will begin one week later, from November 18.
“Virgin Australia is thrilled to re-introduce services from Sydney and Melbourne to Coffs Harbour in time for the busy Christmas holiday period,” said Virgin Australia Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer, Alistair Hartley.
Persistence pays off for Coffs Harbour Airport
Measured by passenger numbers, Coffs Harbour Airport was Australia’s 23rd busiest airport in 2019 – the last year of uninterrupted flying. The airport serves a catchment area between Grafton and Nambucca. QantasLink and Link Airways have a long-term presence at Coffs Harbour. Regional Express (Rex) began flights to Coffs Harbour around the time Virgin Australia pulled the plug back in April.
At the time, Virgin Australia attributed the decision to COVID-19 and the need to cut costs. Coffs Harbour was just one of many regional ports Virgin Australia ended flights to. Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight called Virgin’s exit “really disappointing for the region.”
However, the mayor said she would continue talking to the airline. Her persistence may have paid off.
Virgin Australia eyes 21 flights a week to Coffs Harbour
Virgin Australia confirmed their return to Coffs Harbour on Friday. Initially, the airline will offer daily return Boeing 737-800 flights from Sydney and Melbourne. The airline aims to build up to double daily from Sydney over the upcoming summer season, offering a total of 21 arrivals into Coffs Harbour every week.
From November 11, VA1161 will depart Sydney at 07:30 every morning for the brief hop up the coast, landing in Coffs Harbour at 08:35. The return flight, VA1162, will close its doors in Coffs Harbour at 09:15 and arrive back in Sydney at 10:25.
Virgin Australia doesn’t match the Qantas frequencies. Qantas services the Sydney – Coffs Harbour route with a mix of Dash-8 400 and Boeing 717-200 aircraft up to four times a day. However, Virgin Australia offers a consistent Boeing 737-800 product with very cost-competitive economy and business class cabins.
Between November 18 and April 25, VA1129 will push back from Melbourne each day at 14:40 for the one hour and fifty minute flight north, landing in Coffs Harbour at 16:10. The return flight, VA1130, will leave Coffs Harbour at 16:50 and touch down in Melbourne at 18:45.
Competitor Qantas offers Boeing 717-200 between Melbourne and Coffs Harbour several days a week. Virgin’s Coffs Harbour reboot will add an extra 14,500 seats into the airport each month. You could also expect Qantas to step up frequencies between Melbourne and Coffs Harbour following Virgin’s re-emergence and the upcoming summer.
“The flights will provide a massive injection into the local tourism economy, not to mention allow more Virgin Australia team members to return to the skies,” says Mr Hartley.
A win for Coffs Harbour Airport
Coffs Harbour Airport is delighted to have their customer back. Like airports everywhere, COVID-19 and the decrease in flights has put the city council-run airport under severe pressure.
“The Virgin services provide more choice and frequency for passengers traveling between Coffs and the southern capitals of Sydney and Melbourne, and will cater to significant pent-up travel demand from local people,” said Coffs Harbour Airport General Manager Frank Mondello.
“We expect these services will be really popular with high-value travelers who stay longer and spend more, which will be a welcome boost to many of our tourism businesses who have been doing it tough over recent months.”
Virgin Australia’s flights to Coffs Harbour are now available for sale on the airline’s website.
It’s the second time around for Virgin Australia in Coffs Harbour. Do you think the airline will stick with the city this time? Post a comment and let us know.