Virgin gives commuters the blues

VIRGIN Blue has upset the coast’s legion of professional commuters by signalling a change to its morning timetable.

From next Friday Virgin Blue will scrap its early morning flight and replace it with one which leaves Sydney at 11.40am and returns at 1.20pm, arriving back in Sydney at 2.15pm.

The afternoon flight, leaving Sydney at 2.45pm and returning from Coffs Harbour at 4.20pm, will stay in place.

For health professional Carol Delves, the timetable change will be more than an inconvenience – it will cost her money.

“Over the past two years I have been flying to Sydney at 8am each Friday morning for work and I’ve been returning on the 6.25am Monday flight out of Sydney,” Ms Delves said.

“Now to meet my work commitments in Sydney I will either have to fly with Qantas or go down on the late Thursday Virgin flight.

“Both options will cost me more. Qantas is already considerably dearer and with no competition will probably get even more expensive. If I stay with Virgin I will have to pay for an extra night’s accommodation in Sydney.”

A spokesperson for Virgin Blue said the airline had implemented the timetable change “as part of an ongoing review of schedules and routes which are designed to optimise the performance of the fleet".

The spokesman would not comment if the early morning return flight had been unprofitable for Virgin.

Carol Delves doubts that is the case.

“Over the past two years I have made more than 120 early morning flights on Virgin and every time the plane is close to full," she said.

“That early flight means I can do a full day’s work in Sydney and very importantly be back in Coffs in time to work here on a Monday morning.

“People might not realise just how many people commute for work between here and Sydney. I know of one man who flies back and forth almost every day.

“This timetable change is going to have a big impact on a lot of professional commuters. They will now have to work out whether it is worth living here and working in Sydney.”

Ms Delves says the change will also impact on the holiday market.

“People won’t be able to stay here on a Sunday night and go straight to work in Sydney on the Monday morning after a weekend break.

“The loss of one night in a motel or resort, and a Sunday night meal here, will hit the tourism industry.”

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