Virgin Blue to introduce budget seats for business travel

2 Mar 2010

Virgin Blue, the Australian low-cost carrier, is to introduce an economy section for budget business travellers, while reducing the space given to its standard Economy Class seating.

Speaking to The Australian newspaper, Virgin Blue chief executive Brett Godfrey said the airline's standard seat, which has a 31-inch pitch already provided more leg room than its competitors.

Godfrey told the paper that adding more seats in the back of the economy section would allow the airline to further lower its costs. However, an unchanged economy section, situated between Premium Economy at the front and the new reduced economy seating at the rear, would still appeal to "business people who don't want to put their hands in their pockets".

Virgin Blue is also working on a new mobile phone application that will allow flight bookings, alterations to  bookings and check-in, he said.

The airline has already abandoned the typical LCC no-frills approach by introducing priority check-in, lounge access, frequent-flyer programmes, up to 32kg baggage allowance, special business travel tickets called Corporate Plus and a "Suit Zone" at the front of its planes, allowing quicker disembarkation.

Virgin Blue's Premium Economy service offers 2-2 seating configuration on the first three rows, with complimentary food and beverage and selected inflight entertainment. These seats have a 34-inch pitch. Economy Class passengers also have the opportunity to pay extra for "Blue Zone" emergency row seating, offering the equivalent of a 39-inch pitch.

The move, if implemented, would in effect create a three-class configuration, Premium Economy, Business Economy and Standard Economy, although the airline has not announced what these latter two categories would be called or how ticketing structure will be affected.

Kenny Coyle

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