Virgin Australia moving checkin terminal at Los Angeles Airport this weekend

A file image of a Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER at Los Angeles Airport.

Virgin Australia will move its checkin desks at Los Angeles Airport over the weekend, with its trans-Pacific alliance partner Delta Air Lines among a host of other carriers also shifting terminals in a big week of change at the airport.

Passengers checking in for Virgin Australia flights from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney will have to head to Terminal 2 from Saturday May 13 (US time), from, Terminal 3 currently.

After check-in, passengers will need to walk around to Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) for their flight. All Virgin Australia flights will continue to arrive and depart from TBIT.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines is relocating from Terminals 5 and 6 to Terminals 2 and 3 over the weekend, with the move having started on Friday May 12 and continuing over the the course of the following week.

Virgin said extra staff will be on the ground to assist with directions at Los Angeles airport, noting there was a bus service for connecting passengers.

“During this time, guests connecting between Delta Air Lines and Virgin Australia flights should see staff and information screens for up-to-date flight information,” Virgin said on its website.

“From 13 May, transfer buses will operate from Terminals 2 and 3 to connect guests to their Virgin Australia flights in TBIT. Guests should simply provide their boarding passes at the Bus Gates at Gate 35 (T3) and Gate 22 (T2).”

Delta is spending US$1.9 billion over the next seven years to upgrade Terminals 2 and 3, as well as its operations within the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Flights on Virgin Australia’s other alliance partner Virgin America will commence at Terminal 6 on May 13, with operations at its existing home of Terminal 3 ending on May 12.

There are 21 airlines in total that are affected by terminal changes over the next week.

 

Source : Australian Aviation

Virgin Australia launches Canberra-Perth flights

Virgin Australia launches Canberra-Perth flights

Virgin Australia will join Qantas in catering to the sharply-defined “WA Federal Politician” market with the launch of flights between Canberra and Perth.

The pollies, their partners and staffers – a group which includes 28 of Australia’s 226 Federal members and senators, among them Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Minister for Employment and Women Michaelia Cash, along with three more ministers and two Liberal Party whips – will now have the option to fly with Virgin instead of Qantas when Parliamentary is sitting.

Virgin offers those politicians membership to its exclusive The Club, which goes head to head with the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge – and of course, both have invitation-only private lounges at Canberra and Perth.

Virgin’s new services will run on a Boeing 737 aircraft under the following schedule:

During Parliamentary sitting weeks in August and September 2017, on Thursdays and Sundays, VA590 will depart Perth at 12.35pm and arrive in Canberra at 6.25pm; with VA589 departing Canberra at 7pm to reach Perth at 9.40pm.

In sitting weeks between October 2017 and December 2017, Sundays will see VA590 departing Perth at 12.05pm and arriving into Canberra at 6.55pm, withVA589 out of Canberra at 7.30pm to reach Perth at 9.10pm.

On Thursdays, VA590 is wheels-up from Perth at 11.35am to arrive into Canberra at 6.25pm; VA589 heads out of Canberra at 7pm for a 8.40pm touchdown in Perth.

Virgin Australia also offers direct flights from Canberra to Adelaide, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney.

 

Source : Australian Business Traveller

Virgin to end turboprop operations in Queensland as ATR fleet reduced

A file image of a Virgin Australia ATR 72 turboprop at Brisbane Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

Virgin Australia plans to consolidate its turboprop operations to routes within the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria as it prepares to reduce the number of ATRs in the fleet from 14 to six.

A memo to staff from Virgin Australia group executive for airlines John Thomas, as seen by Australian Aviation, said all six ATR 72-500s would be withdrawn along with two ATR 72-600s. This process would begin in July.

As a result, the airline will end turboprop operations in Queensland.

“The consolidation of ATR flying will unfortunately result in the closure of the Brisbane ATR flightcrew base to ensure our crew are positioned in the locations which best support the remaining ATR network,” Thomas said in the memo.

“We recognise that this may be disappointing news for some of you, however this will ultimately help us achieve a sustainable fleet and network mix to meet customer needs and continue to provide further opportunities for our people.

“This decision will allow us to have appropriate resources and schedules for the market and to focus on profitably growing our network elsewhere.”

The decision to reduce Virgin’s ATR fleet, as well as its Embraer E190 regional jet fleet, was first announced in June 2016.

Thomas said Virgin there would be a consultation period for affected staff.

Currently, Virgin operates ATRs from Brisbane to regional Queensland destinations such as Moranbah, Gladstone, Bundaberg and Rockhampton, as well as to Port Macquarie in NSW.

However, the downturn in the resources sector has led to a a drop in demand on a number of Queensland regional routes.

While a Virgin Australia spokesperson confirmed the existence of the memo, the spokesperson was unable to offer any additional information on what the decision would mean for routes currently served with the aircraft to be withdrawn.

In his Traffic column in the May edition of Australian Aviation, Gordon Reid reports the six ATR 72-500s to be withdrawn by July are VH-FVH, VH-FVI, VH-FVL, VH-FVM, VH-FVU and VH-FVX.

Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) president John Lyons said the airline had offered all affected pilots new roles in Brisbane or at another base.

Further, Captain Lyons said cabin crew were expected to be retrained onto other fleet types such as the Boeing 737.

“They may move to remain on the same aircraft or remain in Brisbane to fly on a different fleet,” Captain Lyons told Australian Aviation.

“There are no redundancies or job losses.”

VIPA represents about 60 per cent of pilots at the Virgin Australia group of airlines, comprising Virgin Australia, Virgin Australia International, Tigerair Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA).

Asked if Virgin would be able to replace a withdrawn ATR on a route with another aircraft as part of a wet lease arrangement, Captain Lyons said: “I think they can do that provided they get permission from the pilot representatives.”

One such example of a wet lease arrangement is Virgin’s Brisbane-Emerald service, which is operated by Alliance Aviation on behalf of Virgin with Fokker 70s.

Figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics show passenger traffic on Brisbane-Gladstone fell 18.3 per cent in the 12 months to December 31 2016, compared with the prior corresponding period.

Meanwhile, Brisbane-Moranbah was down 15.4 per cent and Brisbane-Mount Isa (which Virgin serves with Fokker 100s operated by Alliance Aviation Services) was 7.3 per cent lower.

The memo said Virgin was “investigating a number of different options” for the future of its regional Queensland routes that were currently served with ATRs.

In addition to Queensland, Virgin’s ATR fleet is used on intrastate routes from Sydney, as well on Sydney-Canberra and Melbourne-Canberra services.

On February 17, Virgin reported a statutory net loss of $36.1 million, falling back into the red from net profit of $45.7 million in the prior corresponding period.

Underlying profit before tax, which removes one-off items and is regarded as the best indication of financial performance, was $42.3 million, a decline of 48 per cent from $81.5 million in 2015/16 first half. Revenue dipped 0.9 per cent to $2.63 billion.

A slide presentation accompanying the financial results showed Virgin booked $69.8 million in restructuring changes in the 2016/17 first half as part of its “Better Business” program, which aims to reduce costs through fleet simplification and operational efficiencies in catering, maintenance and fuel consumption.

Virgin said the program was on track to achieve net free cash flow savings of $300 million by the end of 2018/19.

 

Source : Australian Aviation

Virgin Australia to operate Canberra-Perth flights during Parliamentary sitting weeks

 

Virgin Australia has announced plans to operate twice-weekly between Perth and Canberra during Parliamentary sitting weeks, with the flights to operate on Thursdays and Sundays.

Flights for sitting weeks in August, September, October and December 2017 are now on sale, while flights for 2018 will go on sale once the 2018 Parliamentary sitting calendar is released, the airline said on Thursday.

On Thursdays and Sundays during sitting weeks in August and September Virgin Australia’s flight VA590 will depart Perth at 1235 and arrive at Canberra at 1825, with the return VA589 departing Canberra at 1900 and arriving in Perth at 2140.

On Sundays in sitting weeks in October and December VA590 will depart Perth at 1205 and arrive in Canberra at 1855, with the return VA589 departing Canberra at 1930 and arriving in Perth at 2110.

On Thursdays in sitting weeks in October and December VA590 will depart Perth at 1135 and arrive in Canberra at 1825, with the return VA589 departing Canberra at 1900 and arriving in Perth at 2040.

All flights will be operated by Boeing 737s.

Qantas already operates daily nonstop flights between Canberra and Perth using 737-800s.

The announcement was welcomed by Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron.

“This is great news for Canberrans and for the whole region as it will now offer a choice of carrier when flying to Perth,” Byron said.

“It should also lead to more competitive pricing on the route which will encourage more tourists to visit our city and its surrounds.”

Parliamentary sitting weeks are peak – and hence for airlines and Canberra’s hotels high-yielding – travelling periods as federal politicians, staffers, public servants and lobbyists travel to and from Canberra.

 

Australian Aviation

Virgin Australia turns on wi-fi for three-month trial

Virgin Australia has turned on its three-month trial of inflight wireless internet aboard one of its Boeing 737s.

The first flight in which passengers were able to access the wi-fi system saw 737-800 VH-YIG operate VA908 from Brisbane to Sydney on Thursday morning.

Travel news website Australian Business Traveller has been flying onboard the wi-fi equipped aircraft and reported that the first wi-fi flights are “delivering solid 15-20Mbps download” speeds.

Virgin Australia is using Ku-band Optus satellites for its wi-fi service via inflight internet provider Gogo’s ‘2Ku’ dual-antenna technology (one for the forward link and one for the return link) which delivers simultaneous transmissions and faster connectivity compared to standard Ku-band connections.

“We’re looking forward to receiving guest feedback about our inflight connectivity over the next three months to ensure we are able to offer the best possible service in the sky,” group executive Virgin Australia Airlines John Thomas said in a statement on Thursday.

Virgin has signed up Netflix, Stan and Pandora for streaming content for its wi-fi service, and while accessing the internet and streaming content from its content partners will be free for passengers during the trial period, the airline has said previously it would “finalise its business model after considering customer feedback and the results of the testing period”.

“That’s actually part of the feedback that we want to get through the process,” Thomas told media when announcing the airline’s wi-fi plans on March 30.

“I would imagine that what we will see is there will be something if you want to stream videos, there will be something if you just want to use email, there will be something if you want to do texting.”

Virgin first announced plans to equip its fleet of Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330-200s and Boeing 777-300ERs with inflight internet wi-fi in July 2016.

Qantas, meanwhile, began its inflight internet rollout, which uses Ka-band nbn satellite technology, earlier this month.

 

Australian Aviation

Virgin Australia resumes long-haul operations from Melbourne

Virgin Australia celebrating the resumption of MEL-LAX nonstop flights. (Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia has reopened its long-haul base at Melbourne Tullamarine with the resumption of nonstop flights to Los Angeles.

Flight VA23, operated by Boeing 777-300ER VH-VPF, took off from Melbourne at about 1145 local time on Tuesday and was scheduled to land at Los Angeles Airport about 14 hours later.

Virgin consolidated its long-haul Boeing 777-300ER flying to Brisbane and Sydney in October 2014 when it withdrew from the Melbourne-Los Angeles route.

At the time, Virgin said the decision to drop Melbourne-LA was made in order to boost its Brisbane-LA service to daily. Its withdrawal coincided with the arrival of United on the route.

However, in September 2016 the airline announced a shakeup of its long-haul network that included a five-times weekly Melbourne-Los Angeles service, as well as a reduction of Brisbane-Los Angeles from daily to six times weekly.

There will also be a schedule change on one Brisbane-Los Angeles-Brisbane rotation a week, which will be an evening departure from Brisbane and a morning departure from Los Angeles. That change, as well as ending the three times weekly Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights in February 2017, helped free up the extra flying time on its five 777-300ERs required to return to the Melbourne-Los Angeles route.

With Melbourne-Los Angeles underway, Virgin and its joint-venture partner Delta Air Lines now offer 25 flights a week from Australia to Los Angeles. Further, it is the only alliance to guarantee direct aisle access and lie-flat beds for every passenger in business class, regardless of airline, route or aircraft type.

“We are delighted to commence services between Melbourne and Los Angeles today, bringing the Virgin Australia flair and sophistication to this route,” Virgin Australia group executive for airlines John Thomas said.

Qantas and United are the other two carriers offering nonstop flights on Melbourne-Los Angeles.

There will be further Virgin Australia long-haul flying out of Melbourne from July 5, when the airline mounts nonstop flights from the Victorian capital to Hong Kong with Airbus A330-200 equipment in partnership with HNA Group.

Virgin Australia’s international network (which apart from Los Angeles also includes South Pacific, trans-Tasman and Bali flying) posted underlying earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of $800,000 for the six months to December 31 2016, representing a return into the black following a $30.8 million underlying EBIT loss in the prior corresponding period.

 

Source : Australian Aviation

Virgin Australia goes from Space+ to Economy X

Virgin Australia has launched a new Economy X product across its fleet. (Jordan Chong)

Virgin Australia has launched a new Economy X product that replaces its previous Space+ offering and gives passengers what group executive for airlines John Thomas describes as “speed on the ground and space in the air”.

Economy X, which offers extra legroom seats that come with extra perks such as priority boarding, priority screening and dedicated overhead locker space, is being progressively rolled out across Virgin Australia’s domestic and international fleet.

Thomas said more than half of Virgin’s 75 737-800s have been reconfigured with the new Economy X branded seats, which feature a red stripe on the headrest with “Economy X” in white lettering.

The majority of the fleet was expected to be fitted with Economy X by the end of May.

On the Boeing narrowbody, the seats are pitched at 34 inches compared with 30 inches on Virgin’s standard economy seats.

The seats will be available free of charge for platinum members of Virgin’s Velocity frequent flyer program on domestic and short-haul international services.

For everyone else, the seats will be available as an add-on to their purchased fare, starting at $29 for a Sydney-Melbourne flight and rising to $149 for a long-haul Sydney-Los Angeles flight.

The pricing represents an increase from prices of $10-$50 for Virgin’s previous Economy Space+ product. There will also be an increase in the number of seats available as Economy X compared with Economy Space+, which mainly featured the exit rows in the cabin.

Thomas said Economy X was about giving passengers more ways to choose how they wanted to fly.

“What we found was they want speed on the ground and space in the air and that is basically what we give you with Economy X,” Thomas told journalists in Sydney on Thursday.

“We believe that it will revolutionise the domestic travel experience and give our customers that level of choice that’s never been seen in the Australian marketplace in the past.”

Figures from Virgin showed about 20 per cent of economy seats on its 737-800s, 737-700s and 777-300ERs have been rebranded to Economy X, while the percentage was in the single digits for the rest of the fleet. (See table below.)

On Virgin’s long-haul flights, those seated in Economy X will also receive a guaranteed first meal choice and noise cancelling headphones in addition to priority checkin and priority boarding.

Thomas said giving good customer experience “flows directly to be bottom line”.

“The more that you give customers choice, the more that you actually give them control of their experience, the better experience it is for them,” Thomas said.

“And interestingly enough, the better you can make their experience, the more financially profitable you can be.”

Economy X will be offered for sale from Friday March 31 for flights from May 21 2017.

Aircraft
Economy X seats
Economy X rows 
Percentage of  all economy

Boeing 737-800

30

Rows 3-5, 13, 14

 18%

Boeing 737-700

24

Rows 3-5, 10

 20%

Boeng 777-300ER

57

Rows 20-25, 26, 39

 21%

Airbus A330-200

8

Row 28

 3%

Embraer E190

4

Row 12

 4%

ATR 72-500/600

4

Row 1

 6%

Fokker 100

5

Row 12

 5%

Fokker 70

5

Row 11

 6%

Australian Aviation