Announcements pending for Virgin Australia

Branson XFB.JPG

Virgin Australia is expected to make the most of Sir Richard Branson’s ongoing visit to Australia by disclosing strategic decisions. The Virgin Group founder is in Australia for charity talks, announced Virgin’s eucalyptus biofuel project, and is having some mid-flight fun with toilet paper.

Some announcements were due to be released late last week but were held for undisclosed reasons, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Here are some possibilities of what this week’s announcements will be.

PERTH EXPANSION

Virgin has committed to basing two Boeing 737-800 aircraft in Perth, likely for deployment to Southeast Asia. Favoured routes are Perth-Singapore, which ties in with Virgin’s pending alliance with Singapore Airlines, as well as Perth-Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo.

NEW IFE

Negotiations earlier this year between Virgin and Panasonic, the vendor of the Red in-flight entertainment system used by V Australia and sister carrier Virgin America, reached a stalemate over licensing arrangements. At the carrier’s May re-branding unveiling, Branson confirmed Virgin Australia would have an IFE solution, although he did not disclose specifics.

MORE A330s

This is always a question of when, not if, with the current announced count at 6 and plans for expansion to approximately 16 frames. The real question is if Virgin will be able to secure slots from Airbus and lessors for factory-fresh A330s (as it is doing for its third and fourth A330s) or if it will have to relegate itself to old A330s (such as A330 aircraft one, two, five, and six from Emirates). The first two A330s have had a number of maintenance problems that have forced them off Sydney-Perth services at times, exemplifying why Virgin only likes to keep aircraft for 6-7 years, but 787 delays have meant there is a tight supply of A330s.

PACIFIC A330 EXPANSION

In addition to next February’s Brisbane-Singapore-Abu Dhabi route, Virgin could be looking at deploying A330s to other blue-chip Asian ports. (If it is Hong Kong, Virgin Atlantic will not welcome its Australian sister.) Virgin is also evaluating routing A330s to North America via Auckland, as Qantas does.

DELTA-V SHUFFLE

Following final United States Department of Transportation approval for the Delta-V Australia joint-venture, Delta is expected to take over V Australia’s thrice-weekly trans-Pacific route into Melbourne while V Australia deploys its freed capacity to Brisbane, which currently has thrice-weekly service that could be expanded to six weekly trans-Pacific flights.

Stay tuned.

, , , , ,

Leave a Reply