From Brisbane to Nadi, Virgin Blue Australia, Pacific Ocean




Virgin Australia Airlines, formerly Virgin Blue Airlines, is Australia's second-largest airline as well as the largest by fleet size to use the Virgin brand. Now based in Bowen Hills, Brisbane, the airline was co-founded by British businessman Richard Branson and former Virgin Blue CEO Brett Godfrey. It was established in 2000 with two aircraft operating on a single route, and suddenly found itself catapulted to the position of Australia's second airline after the collapse of Ansett Australia in September 2001. The airline has grown to directly serve 29 cities in Australia from hubs in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, using a fleet of narrow-body Boeing and Embraer jets; and Airbus and Boeing widebody jets. After several years operating as a low-cost carrier it improved its services to become a so-called (self-described) "New World Carrier" essentially a business model which offers the "guest" the choice of purchasing a ticket with aspects of the "no frills" approach of low-cost carriers or paying a little more to receive services more in line with full-service airlines in order to compete more effectively with Qantas in the business travel market. In 2011 it took this strategy further by introducing new uniforms; new catering options on board; new widebody aircraft to compete with Qantas on Perth -- Sydney services; and the concurrent introduction of business class in January 2012; together with a new livery and renaming of the brand to Virgin Australia. Virgin Australia was launched as Virgin Blue in August 2000, with two Boeing 737-400 aircraft, one leased from then-sister airline Virgin Express. Initially offering seven return flights a day between Brisbane and Sydney, this has since been expanded to cover all major Australian cities and many holiday destinations. The Virgin Blue name was the result of an open competition; it was a play on the redominantly red livery and the Australian slang tradition of calling a red-headed male 'Blue' or 'Bluey'. The timing of Virgin Blue's entry into the Australian market was fortunate as it was able to fill the vacuum created by the failure of Ansett Australia in September 2001. Ansett's failure allowed Virgin to grow rapidly to become Australia's second domestic carrier, rather than just a cut-price alternative to the established players. It also gave Virgin access to terminal space without which growth would have been significantly limited. Delays in negotiating access to the former Ansett terminal at Sydney Airport however forced Virgin to use its original terminal there—a collection of prefabricated buildings without aerobridges—longer than was needed. As the airline grew, it acquired new equipment, enabling it to phase-out its older 737-400s in favour of 737-700 and −800 series aircraft with modern glass cockpits, winglets and greater fuel efficiency. Virgin Group's holding in Virgin Australia has since been reduced, initially via a sale of a half interest to Australian logistics conglomerate Patrick Corporation, and later by a public float. In early 2005 Patrick launched a hostile takeover for Virgin Blue. Patrick had been unhappy for some time with the company's direction. By the closure of the offer, Patrick held 62% of the company, giving it control. Virgin Group retains a 25% share. In May 2006 Toll Holdings acquired Patrick and became the majority owner of Virgin Blue. In July 2008 Toll sold its majority holding via a special dividend and now holds 1.7% of the company. As at June 2013 Air New Zealand owned 23% of the company. Virgin Blue previously used a familiar formula pioneered by airlines such as Southwest Airlines and Ryanair eliminating costs such as included in-flight meals and printed tickets in favour of selling food on-board and using telephone and internet booking systems. It also cut costs in the past by limiting the number of airports serviced and by operating one type of aircraft, the Boeing 737. This strategy changed with the introduction of a second type into the fleet. The airline ordered 20 Embraer E-jets, in a mix of six E170s and 14 E190s. These were ordered specifically so that the airline could re-enter the Sydney--Canberra market that it abandoned in 2004, and to fly to less populous areas. The first E-170 arrived in Australia in September 2007 and by the end of the year the three on initial order had been delivered. These were placed on limited-frequency services before full-scale operations were launched on 4 February 2008 with services from Sydney to Canberra (branded as 'Capital Jet' services), Mackay in Queensland, and the New South Wales regional centres of Port Macquarie and Albury, which were promoted with a one-cent fare.

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