Virgin Blue’s long-haul arm V Australia launches flights

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Today Virgin Blue's new long-haul carrier, V Australia, is due to formally launch operations with an inaugural departure from Sydney bound for Los Angeles.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Blue CEO Brett Godfrey are travelling on the first flight, which is being operated by a Boeing 777-300ER. V Australia has six of the type on order and is sourcing a seventh on lease from International Lease Finance (ILFC).

Speaking during a media event at Sydney Airport to mark the launch, Branson said: "What we are trying to do is to offer the best quality aircraft, product and service. I think that will make V Australia one of the most successful airlines in the world."

Godfrey added: "Nine years ago we set out to shake up and change the Australian domestic market and now it's ground hog day with the long-haul market. We're coming in offering what we believe is the best product in all three classes across the Pacific."

Transport minister Anthony Albanese also attended the briefing. He said that the new route is a direct result of an amended Australia-USA open skies agreement.

The new carrier, which secured its air operator's certificate on 19 February, was originally due to start operations on 15 December but the launch was delayed after Boeing's machinists' strike postponed the delivery of its first aircraft.

V Australia will initially offer thrice-weekly services between Sydney and Los Angeles but will boost the route to daily on 21 March. Thrice-weekly Brisbane-Los Angeles flights are due to join V Australia's network on 8 April and a thrice-weekly Melbourne-Los Angeles service will follow on 15 September. Five weekly Sydney-Johannesburg flights are next in line and are due for launch in October.

Branson is flying around the world in eight days to demonstrate the Virgin network's new-found global connectivity.