Perhaps fitting since Sunday was Easter, this week saw two resurrected airline rumours.
TIGER TO AVALON?
First was that Tiger Airways would start flights out of Melbourne’s Avalon airport, which the carrier refused to confirm or deny. Presently only Jetstar serves Avalon, 55 km from Melbourne’s CBD, where transport options from the CBD are to drive or to take the one bus that departs for each flight. All other carriers use Tullamarine airport, which is 17 km from the CBD and well-linked by a bus shuttle that runs as frequently as every 10 minutes. (Jetstar also has flights from Tullamarine.)
Reportedly, Tiger would move 5-7 leisure flights a day to Avalon to presumably take advantage of lower landing fees, believed to be about $5 cheaper per passenger. Business flights, such as MEL-SYD, would remain at Tullamarine so Tiger could continue to compete head-on with Virgin Blue and Qantas. (This is much more credible than an earlier report indicating Tiger would move all of its Melbourne operations to Avalon.) There are also questions if Tiger is getting too big for Tullamarine. During its launch in early 2008, a spokesman told me it preferred each of its bases to have no more than five aircraft. According to Flightglobal’s ACAS database, Tiger has 9 A320s in Australia. The majority are at Tullamarine.
V AUSTRALIA TO HONG KONG?
Second was a report (PDF) V Australia might start flights to Hong Kong in October. Virgin Blue denied it. This rumour started last June when V Australia filed for the following slots at Hong Kong:
VAU17 YBBN VHHH 0400Z-1250Z 1234567 361B77W
VAU16 VHHH YBBN 1530Z-0000Z 1234567 361B77W
The daily Brisbane-Hong Kong flight was well-timed to connect with Virgin’s HKG-LHR-HKG flight (200/201). The reckoning on this move is that the route would help V further expand beyond the competitive US trans-Pacific market. The BNE-HKG flight could beef up the Virgin Group’s Europe-Australia presence; Virgin Atlantic has a daily LHR-HKG-SYD return, but passengers in the Brisbane area wouldn’t want to fly south to Sydney in order to fly north to Hong Kong. Only Qantas and Cathay fly BNE-HKG, but neither has a daily non-stop.
“We’ve applied for slots to a lot of places but we won’t fly to all of them,” a source at Virgin Blue (V’s parent company) said to me shortly after the filing for slot. “We don’t have planes to fly imminently to Hong Kong,” the source said at the time, but the statement still holds some truth.
V’s fifth B777-300ER joins the fleet later this year, but will so far be used for the following frequency increases:
- 1x weekly MEL-HKT for 2x weekly
- 1x weekly MEL-JNB for 3x weekly
- 1x weekly MEL-LAX for 3x weekly
- 1x weekly SYD-LAX for 7x weekly
Those increases equate to 106 hours block time out of 168 hours in a week. If V was able to achieve some efficiencies and really wanted to push its fleet, it might be possible to squeeze in a twice-weekly BNE-HKG flight, but certainly not a daily operation with the current schedule.
According to Australia’s International Air Services Commission, there are currently 39 frequencies per week available from BNE, MEL, PER, and SYD to HKG but V has not applied for capacity.