Virgin Blue Rebrands as Virgin Australia

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Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen,
Editor, Routesonline

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Virgin Blue Rebrands as Virgin Australia

Virgin Blue Holdings, which has operations under the Virgin Blue, V Australia and Pacific Blue names, has been rebranded as Virgin Australia Holdings and all the flights of the group will now operate under the Virgin Australia name, complete with a new corporate livery.  The new identity was unveiled earlier this week at a special event at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport when the company introduced its first Airbus A330-200 and latest Boeing 737-800 into its domestic fleet.

Up until now the carriers have been unable to use the Virgin name on international flights from Australia due to a clause in a contract signed when Singapore Airlines acquired a minority stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1999.  As a result the V Australia name was adopted when the company inaugurated trans-Pacific flights to the United States and more recently Abu Dhabi.  However, a deal has now been reached with the Singaporean flag carrier, the details of which have not been made public. 

Virgin Australia will now be able to bring together the domestic operations of Virgin Blue, the New Zealand-based activities of Pacific Blue and the intercontinental flights of V Australia to offer a seamless service across domestic and international markets.  "Now we're able to provide not only one brand and one presentation of the brand but seamless customer experience as time moves on," John Borghetti, Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Australia, told reporters at this week’s unveiling event.

The rebranding goes much deeper than the new corporate identity and includes major upgrades to the airlines’ ground and in-flight services to compete more effectively with the country’s national carrier Qantas.  This includes a new Business Class service which will be available across its domestic fleet and an enhanced Economy product complete with leather seating, contemporary interior design, high quality in-flight products and a gourmet menu.

The new Boeing 737-800 Business and Economy Class interiors will be rolled out across the majority of Virgin Australia’s domestic fleet and will be incorporated on more than 20 aircraft by the end of the year.  Business Class is already available for sale on the Airbus A330-200 and will be available for sale on the Boeing 737-800 in the last quarter of this year.

“Virgin Australia will provide a new standard of airline travel in Australia,” said John Borghetti.  “Our new Business and Economy class has been designed from the ground up by experts in their fields.  We have listened to what today’s traveller wants from an airline and we are incorporating that into every feature and every part of our service, while maintaining competitive pricing.”

Alongside these changes, Virgin Australia will also introduce some of the traditional ‘frills’ offered to Virgin Atlantic customers, making them available to the domestic Australian market for the first time.  These include a premium kerbside entrance and premium kerbside valet service at the Virgin Australia lounge, in Sydney’s domestic terminal.  This exclusive offering also includes a dedicated security screening point (for guests with carry-on baggage only) and flight check-in, all within the comfort and convenience of the lounge.

A key part of the new service will be the introduction of two Airbus A330-200s on its ‘Coast-to-Coast’ route between Sydney and Perth with a daily flight from May 26, increasing to three times daily from July.  These are configured with a 27-seat Business Class cabin offering a 62in pitch, alongside a 251-seat Economy layout and will enable the airline to boost capacity on this trunk route.  They will also be used once weekly on the Sydney – Melbourne route from the same date.

MARKET ANALYSIS: SYDNEY TO PERTH (non-stop flights – two-way O&D passengers)

Airline

Flights

Seats

Passengers

% Pax Share

Avg Fare

Qantas

53

12,397

782,3085

65.1 %

$511

Virgin Blue Airlines*

35

5,040

306,613

25.5 %

$226

JetStar Airways

11

1,947

82,147

6.8 %

$196

TOTAL (including others)

99

19,384

1,201,685

-

$410

*now Virgin Australia.

As the table above shows, Qantas currently dominates the Sydney – Perth market with more than 50 weekly flights offering more than 12,000 seats.  It holds a 65.1 per cent share of the estimated 1.2 million O&D passengers that travelled on the route in the past year, but more significantly - thanks to its premium cabin - its yields are much stronger than its rivals with average fares more than double those of Virgin Australia.

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