Virgin Australia has kicked its trans-Tasman operations into high gear with two new routes and frequency increases on three others starting October 28, 2018, the same day its trans-Tasman alliance with Air New Zealand is set to end.
The first of the airline’s two new routes will be Sydney-Wellington, which the airline will fly five times per week. This will be joined by be a four-times-weekly service between Melbourne and Queenstown that Virgin Australia says will offer the only business class cabin between the two cities.
The airline’s single-aisle Boeing 737-800 aircraft will fly both of these routes. Business class on the B737-800 features eight seats laid out in a 2-2 configuration, with each seat offering 38 inches of pitch (legroom), 19.5 inches of width and a 5-inch recline. Meanwhile economy is laid out 3-3 with 163 seats offering 31 inches of pitch, 17 inches of width and a 4-inch recline.
Virgin Australia has yet to unveil specific schedule details for the new routes, which will go on sale this Thursday, April 19.
Along with these two new routes, a number of frequency changes are set to take effect in October as well, notably on the airline’s Auckland services.
The carrier’s Auckland-Sydney flights will go up to three times a day on weekdays and twice daily on weekends, while Auckland-Melbourne will go up to a double-daily service on all days. The airline’s Auckland-Brisbane service, meanwhile, will increase to twice daily with this increasing to three times a day on peak days.
“As well as increasing frequency on key routes from Auckland, we have also improved the timing of some of our New Zealand flights to better suit the needs of both leisure and business travellers,” said Rob Sharp, Virgin Australia Airlines group executive.
“Our entry into the Melbourne-Queenstown market will bring some much-needed competition to the premium leisure sector, with Virgin Australia the only airline to offer Business Class on this route. Virgin Australia also offers other unique products such as Economy X featuring extra legroom and priority benefits.”
That said, there will be some frequency cuts across Virgin Australia’s trans-Tasman services also. The airline’s Christchurch-Melbourne route will drop from 11 flights per week to just once per day, while Brisbane-Wellington will go from up to twice daily to just nine per week.
Despite these cuts, Sharp said that the airline “remains committed” to both markets.
Virgin Australia’s raft of new trans-Tasman services comes after Air New Zealand announced its own significant expansion across the market, including two new routes between New Zealand and Brisbane, after the airlines pulled the plug on their trans-Tasman alliance, which is set to officially end on October 28.
The two carriers began their strategic alliance at the end of 2010, aimed at partnering on services between Australia and New Zealand. However the relationship has frayed over the past few years, perhaps most notably with Air New Zealand’s sale of its 19.9 per cent stake in Virgin Australia back in June, 2016.