VIRGIN Australia has announced it will withdraw its service from Port Macquarie "for the foreseeable future".
A Virgin Australia spokesperson said while the airline is not currently operating flights to and from Port Macquarie, it will continue to explore opportunities for future airline partnerships in a bid to restoring the service.
Virgin Australia has had a code sharing agreement with Alliance in the past and could be an option for the Port Macquarie route into the future. This arrangement will be applied for the Port Macquarie to Brisbane route when the Alliance service resumes.
The decision aims to set a minimal expected domestic schedule across its entire network and then ramp it up into the future based on demand.
"With the changes to simplifying our fleet and ongoing subdued customer demand, we have been required to make some adjustments to our network," the spokesperson said on September 9.
"We have made the decision to withdraw services from Port Macquarie for the foreseeable future. We remain committed to regional Australia and we plan to continue to fly to 20 regional destinations in Australia.
"We will continue to review our network as travel restrictions ease and demand returns."
The larger planes are now the only aircraft in the fleet and cannot land at Port Macquarie, the spokesperson said.
A Port Macquarie Airport runway upgrade and associated work in 2012-2013 paved the way for the larger planes.
Virgin had temporarily suspended its Port Macquarie service on March 27.
With COVID-19 and border restrictions, the Port Macquarie route was already under review as it was "under-performing", the spokesperson said.
"Since COVID-19 and the changes to simplify our fleet, we've accelerated our decision to withdraw this service."
Virgin Australia Group CEO and managing director Paul Scurrah said last month that aviation and tourism sectors faced continued uncertainty in light of COVID-19 with many Australian airports recording passenger numbers less than three per cent of last year and ongoing changes to government travel restrictions.
"Demand for domestic and short-haul international travel is likely to take at least three years to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, with the real chance it could be longer, which means as a business we must make changes to ensure the Virgin Australia Group is successful in this new world," he said.
Mr Scurrah said even when pre-COVID-19 levels of travel return, successful airlines would be influenced by demand and look very different.
Qantas has resumed direct flights between Port Macquarie and Sydney.
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