Introducing Wings Down Under

JQ Approach SYD.jpgJetstar 320 on approach to Sydney

Don’t take life too seriously.

That is the unofficial mantra Down Under. It helps to explain the irreverence in Australian humour, such as why a person with red hair is called a “bluey”–a joke the red-themed Virgin group used to name its Australian start-up: Virgin Blue.

Life may be less serious. Life may also be a bit more remote: Australia and New Zealand are 1500 miles apart and the next closest (major) international city is some 3400 miles away.

But it’s worth keeping an eye on aviation in this region, which this new Flightglobal blog aims to do. So what’s so special?

DSC_2213.JPGAs the world plans to attempt to tackle climate change next month in Copenhagen, Air New Zealand is at the forefront of improving aviation’s impact on the environment. It flew the first sustainable biofuel flight, aims to have 10% of its 2013 fuel needs met by biofuels, and this week in Dubai announced it would be the launch customer for winglets (“sharklets”) on its new A320s.

In Australia, Qantas had it good for so long. Then Virgin Blue entered in 2000, creating a low-cost domestic scene, forcing Qantas to respond with its “two brand” approach: Qantas for full-service and Jetstar for low-cost service.

DSC_9405.JPGThe golden rule was Jetstar would never compete with Qantas, but now as Tiger Airways (below) is encroaching, the two brand approach is being put to the test domestically. Internationally, Jetstar was supposed to have 787s by now, flying them to Europe. 787s have been pushed back to 2013 and now the carrier is looking at using A330s, but can they take the payload? Has low-cost, long-haul operator AirAsia X taken the market?

Back to Qantas, it is the world’s second oldest airline and is deeply held by Australians, even when oxygen bottles explode mid-flight, an aircraft loses a thousand feet of altitude in seconds, and pilots forget to put down the landing gear.

DSC_3424.JPGVirgin Blue launched in 2000 as a low-cost carrier but soon moved up-market as the world’s first “new world carrier”, an appellation it has had to defend as something other than a moniker. The carrier now operates more domestic flights a day than Qantas, and is making an impact on the international scene.

DSC_5971 copy.JPGVirgin Blue launched V Australia last February, arguably the worst time ever, but had little choice. Soon it is starting services to Phuket, Fiji, and Johannesburg. The grapevine screams (and the carrier quasi-denies) V Aus is looking at ordering 787s and 777-200LRs, which it would use on non-stops from Sydney to New York and Perth to London, creating the world’s first and third longest flights, respectively. Maybe it’s not happening as soon as reports made it out to be, but the rumour is it’s on the eventual agenda.

DSC_2633.JPGThe Australian and New Zealand regulatory regime is unique in that foreign companies can launch domestic airlines with no majority-owned regulatory constraints, such as those that plagued Virgin America. That’s what enabled Virgin Blue to initially launch (it’s now Australian majority-owned) and ditto for Tiger Airways Australia, a sister airline to Tiger Singapore. Tiger proclaims itself as Australia’s real low-cost airline and in the past six months has taken on a major expansion plan, breaking out of its Melbourne and Adelaide hubs.

That’s just the beginning. There are smaller carriers, regional carriers, modern air traffic management procedures, and lots of defence projects in the swathes of Australia’s desert.

Stay tuned.

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One Response to Introducing Wings Down Under

  1. haba February 1, 2010 at 2:50 am #

    Thank you for an enjoyable read. I was searching for blogs about Australia on Bing and your website came up on search results. I’ve bookmarked your site so that I can come back and read more when I have time. Thanks very much.

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