Virgin Australia will operate the Alice Springs – Adelaide route three times per week on a Darwin – Alice Springs – Adelaide routing.
The new route will bring choice and competition, after the town was left without a second carrier when the low-cost airline, Tigerair pulled out in July. Qantas is the only airline currently operating domestic services to and from Alice Springs.
Alice Springs Airport General Manager Dave Batic said he was delighted to see Virgin Australia growing its presence in the region. “Linking the Red Centre to Adelaide with another full service option will provide more choice and assist travellers,” he said.
Travellers will also benefit from a new regional lounge at Alice Springs Airport, as well as the new Virgin Australia Lounge in Darwin, which is set to open in time with the airline’s new route.
The new Darwin lounge will feature Virgin Australia’s trademark style, including luxury seating, gourmet food and drink, as well as impressive views across the airport landscape.
“Tourism is a key driver of the economy in Alice Springs and we’re thrilled that Virgin Australia will build on its Darwin flights and add this connection to South Australia. We also know that trips combining NT and South Australia are often seen in international itineraries, so this is great news from a tourism access perspective,” Batic added.
The new schedule will be operated using Virgin Australia’s 176-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with complimentary wireless in-flight entertainment for all passengers.
Virgin Australia Chief Commercial Officer Judith Crompton said: “Today’s announcement is another step forward in our strategy to become Australia’s favourite airline group as we continue to redefine domestic air travel in Australia for both business and leisure travellers.”
The announcement actually represents Virgin Australia's return to the Alice Springs - Adelaide route, which it served for a year between October 2004 and October 2005 when it flew under the Virgin Blue brand. As mentioned above, Qantas has held a monopoly on the route since then, except for a a period between March 2009 and April 2010 when Tigerair offered its own low-cost operation.
In our analysis, below, we have looked at average annual air fares on the Alice Springs - Adelaide O&D city pair since 2002 to see if the arrival of competition has impacted the cost of travelling on this domestic route. In a market of rising fares two small dips over the analysis period show the small impact competition brought to the market.
What is also clear though, is how the addition of a second operator on the route stimulated passenger demand on this domestic sector. As the chart, below, clearly displays, there were significant increases in local, point-to-point traffic between Alice Springs and Adelaide in 2004-2005 and 2009-2010 when Virgin Blue and Tigerair also served the route alongside the long-standing Qantas flights.