Virgin Blue's offshore arm Pacific Blue has launched flights to Fiji and Vanuatu, two South Pacific island nations, with plans to add the Cook Islands to its Pacific network.

Its Fiji flights operate three times weekly from Brisbane and Melbourne. Pacific Blue and Fiji's Air Pacific fly head to head on the Brisbane route, but from Melbourne, Air Pacific's overnight widebody services contrast with Pacific Blue's daylight narrowbody flights.

Pacific Blue's new Vanuatu flights also operate from Brisbane and Melbourne. It bypasses Sydney on all island flights, citing lower airport costs and long-term agreements as reasons for preferring Brisbane and Melbourne to Sydney.

Pacific Blue will launch Cook Islands flights in December from Australia via Christchurch, New Zealand. Pacific Blue also holds Australian traffic rights to New Caledonia, but has not announced when it will start.

These are the first routes operated by a low-cost carrier between Australia and the South Pacific islands. Earlier this year Air New Zealand's low-cost unit, Freedom Air, launched similar flights to Fiji from New Zealand.

Cross-border flights by low-cost carriers are now more common. Stage lengths, not boundaries, are their main constraint. Pacific Blue's longest new route - Melbourne-Fiji - is almost 5h, or 1h less than Virgin Blue's longest domestic route.

Source: Airline Business