Virgin Australia: A snapshot of a busy few weeks

    It has been a big couple of weeks for Virgin Australia; between route announcements, route launches and even a whole new product, it seems the sky is the limit – pun intended.

    It’s therefore only fair that we delve into what the airline is up to and ask the question – what’s next?

    Virgin Australia announces Melbourne-Hong Kong service from Jul-2017

    Virgin Australia has confirmed that services between Melbourne and Hong Kong will begin on 05-July-2017. The airline took to social media to make the original announcement, highlighting that the service will be five times weekly when it is launched.

    The new service is a direct result of the alliance agreement with HNA Aviation, Hong Kong Airlines, and HK Express, which has gained interim authorisation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The Virgin Australia flights are on sale, subject to obtaining final regulatory approval from the ACCC.

    Virgin Australia services to Hong Kong will be operated using dual aisle Airbus A330 aircraft. The new service will provide an additional 1,375 weekly one way seats on the Melbourne-Hong Kong route, which is already highly competitive due to the established presence of airlines such as Qantas and Cathay Pacific, who have 72.65% and 27.35% of the current nonstop capacity share, respectively.

    Melbourne Tullamarine Airport to Hong Kong International Airport: one way seats per week

    Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG.

    The alliance also allows for codeshare and special prorate agreements, a reciprocal frequent flyer participation and lounge access agreement, as well as a route planning agreement.  The initial announcement will allow for a codeshare with Hong Kong Airlines for travellers to connect through to 13 destinations within mainland China. It will also allow guests from Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Tianjin Airlines to connect onto Virgin Australia’s domestic and trans Tasman network.

    Virgin Australia is also expected to introduce direct flights between Australia and mainland China in further stages of the agreement.

    Virgin Australia resumes Melbourne-Los Angeles route

    Melbourne-Los Angeles services were relaunched on 04-Apr-2017 and are now operating five times weekly. Virgin Australia will utilise Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on this route, configured with 37 business seats, 24 premium economy and 278 economy seats.

    Virgin Australia hasn’t serviced this route since late 2015, but with improved product and servicing the success of this route is very likely. According to Virgin Australia their alliance with Delta remains the only trans Pacific alliance to offer business class guests lie flat beds with direct aisle access on all services – something the business traveller will be quite impressed with.

    Delta will also codeshare on the Melbourne services, with passengers earning Velocity Points and Status Credits, and able to have their baggage checked completely through.

    Virgin Australia Airlines group executive John Thomas stated that Los Angeles and North America formed an important market for Virgin Australia which, in partnership with Delta Air Lines, offers 25 return services per week across the Pacific.

    Melbourne Tullamarine Airport to Los Angeles International Airport: one way seats per week

    Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG.

    Virgin Australia announces launch of new Economy X enhanced economy service

    Plans to deploy a new economy class service – known as Economy X – have also recently been announced, offering travellers extra legroom and other benefits on the airline’s domestic Boeing 737 fleet from 21-May-2017. The service replaces the Economy Space+ offering.

    Economy X features between 34 inches and 39 inches of legroom, compared to 31 inches for the airline’s standard economy class seat. Economy X also features a preferred overhead compartment, priority boarding and priority security screening. For long haul flights the service will also include priority check-in, guaranteed first meal choice and a noise cancelling headset.

    Economy X service will first be rolled out to all the airline’s domestic routes, with all 75 737 aircraft to be reconfigured to Economy X by the end of May-2017. The service will be progressively rolled out across all the airline’s domestic, regional and long haul international fleet.