Virgin Australia to add capacity with partners to fill Qantas gap

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Virgin Australia could add domestic capacity and work with international partners to help fill the gap left by Qantas Airways' decision to ground its aircraft and suspend its operations.

'With this industrial action that has been going on in the last week, we have announced an additional 40,000 seats in the market over the next number of weeks and months," said a spokeswoman.

'We are obviously now working with all our alliances including Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airlines, Air New Zealand and Delta to see if we can get any extra planes, any extra capacity into the domestic market and also obviously helping those people stranded internationally and abroad."

Australian flag carrier Qantas said today that it will immediately ground all aircraft and suspend its domestic and international operations indefinitely. This came after it decided to lock out all employees covered by the agreements being negotiated with the Australian Licenced Engineers Union (ALAEA), the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Australian and International Pilots Union (AIPA) from 18:00h Sydney time on Monday.

This comes after several weeks of occasional industrial action by members of the three unions, which has resulted in flight cancellations and disruptions that have cost Qantas Australian dollar (A$) 68 million ($72.9 million) so far. The airline added that it is losing A$15 million in revenue due to the industrial action.

The Oneworld carrier said that even though the lockdown would come into effect on Monday, the "tense environment" that means that "individual reactions to this lock-out decision may be unpredictable", and that led to the decision to ground all aircraft worldwide.

This would affect only the Qantas international and domestic fleet, it said. Aircraft currently in the air would complete their flights and remain grounded until the impasse is over.

Operations by Qantas' low-cost subsidiary Jetstar will not be affected, and the other members of the Group like QantasLink, JetConnect, Express Freighters Australia and Atlas Freighters will continue flying.

"This is a crisis for Qantas," said its CEO Alan Joyce in a statement. "If this action continues as the unions have promised, we will have no choice but to close down Qantas part by part."