V Australia Coming to the US

LAX - Los Angeles, V Australia, Virgin Blue

You may have heard of Australia’s second largest airline, Virgin Blue, but you probably haven’t heard of V Australia. That’s because until yesterday, it didn’t really exist.

08_04_01 vaustraliaV Australia is Virgin Blue’s new long haul arm. It launched officially yesterday as the US and Australia signed an open skies agreement which allowed the airline to start flights between Australia and the US. First up will be a daily Sydney – Los Angeles trip beginning on December 15, 2008, just in time for high summer season in Australia.

US-Australia flying has always been an interesting market. There are really only three nonstop options, and only two are major players. Of course there’s Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, and then there’s also United. The third player? Hawaiian flies from Honolulu to Sydney, but that’s not a strong option for many people on the Mainland.

Air New Zealand used to fly the route, but they abandoned it several years back. And Singapore has been trying to fly it for years as well, but Australia’s protectionist policies won’t let them in. This has led to high fares and not nearly enough competition. Now, there will finally be a third major option.

You might expect V Australia to come in with a torrent of low fares, but really they aren’t. Their lowest published fare starts at just 16% below the current lowest published fare (if you believe their own press). They have been touting a sale fare, but it’s already sold out for the first two months. Then again, this is high season, so I wouldn’t expect many deals.

We’ll see how much competition really does to lower fares once the shoulder and low seasons come around, but in a market that has previously been so restricted as this one, it should only be good news.

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14 comments on “V Australia Coming to the US

  1. Of all the Virgin start-ups outside the original Virgin Atlantic, this one actually makes the most sense. It’s getting back to what the Virgin brand is and what it does best, and that’s quality four-engined long haul. We’ll see if they’re going to be able to deal with the relatively small potential for growth in this market compared to their Atlantic product, but I’m willing to bet they can.

    The major story in this, however, is that V Australia will not be code sharing with Virgin America…at least not yet.

  2. Air Canada was interested in flying the route as well, and just needed a new bilateral with Australia. Apparently the Canadian side cancelled a meeting that had been planned for 2006.

  3. Another option is Air Tahiti Nui. One stop service daily from LAX and one stop seasonal service from JFK. They are a great flying experience (check out Skytrax pax comments). Sometimes the connections in PPT are not optimally convenient, but if one wants to include Tahiti as part of an overall vacation, usually the stopover is free.

  4. Court – Just minor nit – it’s quality TWO-engine long haul with those nice 777s.

    It is interesting that VX hasn’t become their first partner. In the press release, they mentioned that “North West” is actually the first. Strange.

  5. “It’s getting back to what the Virgin brand is and what it does best, and that’s quality four-engined long haul.”

    …except that the plane on the website appears to be a 777-200 ;-).

    Just kidding on the nit-picking. You’re absolutely right, Court. Hope this one works out.

  6. “North West”? Somebody in V’s press department needs a clue. Northwest would never write its name that way.

  7. CF,
    Yeah, I caught that after I hit the “Submit Comment” button.

    I was considering a two-engined round trip, which equals 4. Yeah…That’s the ticket.

  8. Eh, not codesharing with Virgin America isn’t quite surprising. Virgin Australia is a bit uppity and independent from the Virgin brand, moreso than any of the other Virgin branded airlines..

  9. Air New Zealand fly LA to Sydney every night along with United and Qantas. I’v been flying with them across the Pacific for 10 Years, twice a year.

  10. Judith – Air New Zealand hasn’t flown that route for several years. I believe that it was dropped around 2001/2002 when the airline nearly collapsed under the Ansett debacle. ANZ does codeshare on the United flight, but they do not fly their own metal.

  11. Yeah, you can fly ANZ but only through Auckland now– no direct flight as CF states.

    I really hope SQ gets back in the mix. That would give us a much better Star Alliance option than just United.

    Vive Open Skies!

  12. The annoying thing is V Australia isn’t flying Brisbane – LA direct (even though Virgin Blue’s base is Brisbane), so Qantas can still continue to offer high fares and full capacity 747s (sadly).

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