Hundreds of people preparing to reunite with their loved ones have had their Christmas plans thrown into disarray after Jetstar and Virgin cancelled or rescheduled dozens of flights.
Customers were given little warning before Jetstar Christmas Eve flights on busy routes between Victoria, NSW and Queensland and South Australia were canned.
Jetstar called off 10 December 24 flights on Australia’s busiest route between Melbourne and Sydney.
According to Virgin’s flight status tracker on its website, the airline cancelled 12 of its own flights between the two cities.
More than 20 flights between the major cities and Gold Coast, Adelaide and Brisbane have also been scratched or rescheduled across both airlines.
A Virgin Australia spokesman said the airline had cancelled the flights earlier in the week but it had already moved all passengers onto alternative flights and that no one had been left stranded.
“We apologise to any guest impacted by changes to our schedule made earlier this week,” he said.
“All impacted guests have been contacted prior to travel and automatically moved onto alternative services that have a same day departure.”
Would-be passengers were reportedly alerted to the Jetstar’s cancellations as late as 9pm on Thursday evening, after many customers would have been in bed to wake up for an early flight.
People were reportedly offered replacements that took long detours via other cities and landed at their destinations up to eight hours later than they had booked to arrive.
Customers shared their frustration on social media, with one father saying: “I feel like screaming. Daughter in Sydney did all the right things. Double vacc, bolstered, PCR test, Qld border pass. Jetstar just cancelled her flight to Bris. No explanation.”
A different passenger tweeted at Virgin Australia’s Twitter account to say, “with cancelled, rescheduled and now delayed flights, it’s obvious you are really trying to compete with Jetstar”.
Meanwhile, another person wrote: “Not only did you split up my family on our flight, you have now cancelled it, I rebook instantly on the next flight available and you split us up again”.
One passenger wrote on Twitter on Friday morning: “Thanks for ruining Christmas Eve, Jetstar.”
A Jetstar spokeswoman said the late flight cancellations were a result of airline staff having to test for Covid-19 and isolate as close contacts.
“We appreciate the frustration this causes, especially as customers are travelling for Christmas, and sincerely apologise for the impact these changes are having on travel plans,” she said.
“We are working to minimise any delays and re-accommodating passengers on flights as close as possible to their original departure times across both Jetstar and Qantas services.”
The Virgin Australia spokesman said the airline was operating hundreds of services on December 24 with little to no impact on scheduled departure or arrival times.