The boss of Virgin Australia has revealed when he thinks we'll be flying overseas again — and how COVID-19 has impacted airfares — as he reflected on his biggest regret from the airline's horror year.
As the company emerges from its near-collapse amid the pandemic, its chief executive Paul Scurrah said he expected passengers' return to international skies will be a gradual affair, with key destinations like Europe still some months away.
"It's really hard to know exactly when it's going to be," Mr Scurrah said at a Yahoo Finance All Market Summit on Thursday.
"It's really a market-by-market assessment, it's not a blanket approach. I think you're going to see markets like New Zealand open up far sooner than the USA, for example, and this is the time between now and the vaccine, when that vaccine actually becomes effective to stop the spread of the virus."
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Mr Scurrah said COVID-19 had driven up the cost of airfares but there could be good news ahead for budget travellers.
"There's a number of restrictions on operating airlines today, that really cap the amount of people you can take in the plane, so it changes the economics completely of having to operate the plane. Some of them are underwritten by the government but there are still some pretty big airfares," he said.
"When the skies do open up again there's going to be a need to stimulate demand and you will see some competitive airfares when it is safe to travel," he said. "For Ireland (for example) you'd probably get something like $1500, $2000 return."
Virgin Australia has previously flagged it would focus on domestic and short-haul international routes as it rebuilds as a "value" airline under new owner Bain Capital.
Last month the airline announced it would axe 3000 staff, cull its low cost subsidiary, Tigerair Australia, and transition to a 737-only fleet as it recovered from its near-collapse.
Virgin Australia departed New Zealand airspace in March closing its crew base for the country, with the loss of 200 pilots and 260 crew jobs.