Virgin Blue”s new international subsidiary V Australia will begin competing on the recently liberalised transpacific market from December with daily direct flights from Sydney to Los Angeles, subject to regulatory approval.
The airline began selling seats yesterday (31 March) for the inaugural service scheduled to begin on 15 December.
A Boeing 777-300ER will offer a three-class cabin, with International Business, International Premium Economy and International Economy. Business class seats will be lie-flat to 77” (195cm) in length; 40 premium economy seats will be 20” wide, giving a 9” recline, and offer a minimum 38” of legroom; economy will be in a 3x3x3 configuration, with 18.8” seat width and 32” legroom.
Qantas has been the only Australian carrier permitted to fly to the US, but in February US and Australian governments agreed an ”open skies” deal which liberalised the transpacific market just as the equivalent agreement has done between the US and EU.
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Blue co-founder, said: ”The transpacific route is in dire need of competition and a good shake-up and that”s a challenge we are always keen to take on.
”The launch of V Australia means the Virgin Group for the first time will offer a global network of airlines that allow travellers to fly worldwide on our carriers that all share the same vision and commitment to safety, service, fun and flair.”
V Australia”s product will include full service features including complimentary meals and beverages, and it will also be the only airline operating transpacific to offer passengers the ability to send and receive emails and text messages using GPRS devices such as BlackBerrys and mobile phones.
Details on the schedule are thin, but it will be an evening departure from Sydney, allowing business travellers a full day”s work in the Australian city before their flight.
The Sydney-LA route was chosen after months of negotiations with ”a number of airports” on both sides of the pacific due to both being major gateway cities, with Virgin Blue offering a host of connections from Sydney and Northwest Airlines ” which is partnering with V Australia ” doing the same for the US market.
The carrier plans to ”ramp up additional frequencies” on the route as it takes deliveries of more new 777s, and will announce two more destinations in the coming weeks.
Virgin Blue CEO Brett Godfrey said: ”V Australia is a multi-billion dollar investment for the Virgin Blue Group of airlines and it”s not one we have taken lightly. Today”s announcements are the first of many and we have every intention of bringing revolutionary change not just to the transpacific route but across the region.”
Economy fares will start from AUS$1,899 (”873) return and members of Virgin Blue”s ”Velocity” loyalty programme will be able to ”earn and burn” miles on the international subsidiary.
New South Wales Premier, the Hon. Morris Iemma, said the ”launch of this new airline is set to bring great benefits to Australia and in particular this State, as it will bring a new wave of visitors to our shores.”