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Virgin Australia makes big changes on the Tasman

April 17, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Following Air New Zealand’s decision to go it alone on the Tasman from October, its trans-Tasman partner, Virgin Australia, will launch two new routes into key New Zealand markets and increase trans-Tasman frequency while cutting back on some other New Zealand routes.

At the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE18) in Adelaide yesterday, Virgin Australia Airlines group executive Rob Sharp announced a suite of changes to the airline’s Trans-Tasman services, saying they would take effect at the beginning of the Northern Winter flying season on 28 October 2018 and would go on sale this Thursday, 19 April 2018.

From 28 October 2018 Virgin Australia would operate no codeshare services on the Tasman, Sharp reiterated.

From that date, Virgin Australia will begin up to five flights per week between Sydney and Wellington, as well as up to four flights per week between Melbourne and Queenstown, becoming the only airline to offer Business Class on the Melbourne-Queenstown route.

Virgin Australia will also make the following schedule changes:

Virgin Australia Airlines group executive Rob Sharp at ATE18 in Adelaide yesterday

  • Auckland-Sydney increased up to triple daily on weekdays and double daily on weekends;
  • Auckland-Melbourne increased up to double daily every day;
  • Auckland-Brisbane up to two services per day and up to three on peak days.

From 28 October 2018, Virgin Australia will reduce frequency between Christchurch and Melbourne from 11 flights per week to a daily service, and Brisbane-Wellington from up to 14 services per week to nine.

Sharp said Virgin Australia was “upping its game on the Tasman”.

“As well as increasing frequency on key routes from Auckland, we have also improved the timing of some of our New Zealand flights to better suit the needs of both leisure and business travellers. Our entry into the Melbourne-Queenstown market will bring some much-needed competition to the premium leisure sector, with Virgin Australia the only airline to offer Business Class on this route. Virgin Australia also offers other unique products such as Economy X featuring extra legroom and priority benefits.

Virgin Australia A300-200

“While the Brisbane-Wellington and Christchurch-Melbourne routes will have a small reduction in frequency, we remain committed both markets. Virgin Australia also remains the only international airline flying to and from Dunedin.

“We have had a strong presence in New Zealand since 2004, and we look forward to bringing more exciting initiatives to this market very soon,” Sharp said.

Virgin Australia will operate a modern fleet of B737-800 aircraft on Sydney-Wellington and Melbourne-Queenstown, featuring:

  • Eight leather Business Class seats in a 2-2 configuration;
  • Business Class food and beverage menus designed by resident chef Luke Mangan;
  • Virgin Australia Entertainment streamed to passengers’ own devices;
  • Amenity kits featuring Hunter Lab products exclusive to Virgin Australia ;
  • Economy X, which offers up to 40 per cent more legroom, preferred overhead locker space and priority boarding.

On other points, Sharp said:

  • Wi-Fi is being rolled out steadily across the Virgin Australia fleet, is now installed on about 14 aircraft and will be on all the carrier’s B777s by next month. Wi-Fi performance on the B737s is very good and the installation program will run into calendar 2019.
  • Virgin Australia now has 130 aircraft in its fleet including 84 B737-800s. The average age of the fleet is 10 years – “very young by world standards”.
  • Automatic bag drop has just begun at Adelaide Airport to complement automatic check-in.
  • Internationally there is much focus on greater China, with half the loads on Virgin Australia’s Melbourne international services coming from southern China.
  • Membership of the Velocity frequent flyer program is about 8.5 million.
  • Virgin Australia’s next big aircraft order is for B737 MAX planes, which will start arriving in 2019. The airline has a couple of years yet to decide whether new widebody planes, such as the B787 and A350, are needed.

Written by Peter Needham

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