The strike at Boeing that brought production to a halt may have forced some airlines to defer aircraft retirement or expansion plans, but for Virgin Blue it has forced a bigger delay: to the launch of new long-haul subsidiary V Australia.

V Australia was planning to launch operations on 15 December using new-build 777-300ERs that it has been awaiting from the Boeing factory. It had been accepting bookings for months. But it has now deferred the launch to 28 February "to protect the interests of its guests", as a result of the Boeing strike that began on 6 September.

V Australia is being set up as part of Virgin Blue's plan to expand into the long-haul market. It has three 777-300ERs in advanced stages of production and says Boeing advised it that it "cannot guarantee the delivery date of the airline's launch aircraft". It says it would "move swiftly to bring forward V Australia's start-up schedule" should it get certainty soon on when its aircraft may be delivered, although it is clear it has no chance to make the end-of-year peak holiday travel period.

Boeing 777-300ER
 © Boeing

V Australia is still planning to start operations with flights between Sydney and Los Angeles. It also intends to launch its second route, Brisbane-Los Angeles, as planned on 1 March 2009.

Australia's Qantas Airways, meanwhile, has deferred a planned initial public offering of its frequent-flyer programme until next year as a result of volatility in financial markets. The carrier has been considering selling part of its Qantas Frequent Flyer business through an IPO for some time and indicated in July that it was likely to take place before the end of this year.

But it says its board has decided that "in this period of heightened market volatility, it would be appropriate to defer the IPO. The board said preparations would continue for a minority IPO in the first half of 2009".

The programme has more than five million members.

Source: Airline Business