A trans-Tasman price war may be in the wind as Virgin Australia moves to end several routes from Australia to Bali and Thailand (including Perth-Phuket), replace most services with its budget offshoot Tigerair and redeploy aircraft on the Tasman.
The Perth-Phuket route is being terminated, rather than just switched to Tigerair.
The drastic steps are part of Virgin Australia’s bid to turn around losses on international operations, which have hit AUD 69 million for the year.
Virgin will stop flying from Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth to Bali from March. Instead, Tigerair will operate those routes.
The winner out of it all would appear to be travel to New Zealand. Virgin will take the B737 aircraft it currently uses to serve Bali and Phuket and redeploy it on the Tasman, on routes such as Sydney-Christchurch and Melbourne-Christchurch.
The Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that the moves could trigger a trans-Tasman price war between the Virgin Australia-Air New Zealand camp and the Qantas-Emirates camp. That’s good news for anyone thinking of visiting New Zealand – and for Kiwis contemplating a trip in the other direction.
Virgin Australia, which will also boost seasonal flights to Fiji and the Solomon Islands, expects to be profitable by the end of the 2016-17 financial year.
Tigerair will gain three B737-800 aircraft (configured all-economy) to augment its hitherto solely A320 fleet.
Virgin’s domestic operations posted a pre-tax profit of AUD 111 million for the year to June. Yields were up by 5% and the pre-tax improvement was AUD 210 million on 2013-14.
Tigerair lost no time last week in proclaiming its new services. It even released prices, subject to availability, which may vary until ticketed.
Among them are flights to Bali from Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth from AUD 89 one way (departing Perth) starting in March 2016. That’s based on a one-way economy Light Fare.
“We are excited to have Bali as our first international destination given it is so popular with Australians,” Tigerair Australia chief executive Rob Sharp said.
“Bali is a year-round leisure and family favourite destination, visited by more than one million Australians last year. Tigerair Australia flights mean it will become even more accessible for those looking an affordable and relaxing tropical getaway any time of year.”
The B737-800 aircraft will provide a mix of free and paid wireless inflight entertainment for use on passenger’s own devices for the international services.
Sharp added that a brand new A320 would join the existing fleet of 13 A320 aircraft and will be based in Sydney ahead of commencing operation in early September 2015.
“Delivered straight from the Airbus factory in Hamburg, the new A320 will be the first in the Tigerair Australia fleet to feature ‘sharklets’ on the wingtips, one of the latest aerodynamic design features from the aircraft manufacturer.”
Tigerair will offer more domestic flights from September 2015, with additional Sydney-Cairns and Sydney-Adelaide services already on sale. The airline will add over 10,000 additional domestic seats to the schedule each month from early December.
Written by Peter Needham