Would Virgin use its 777's for transcontinential if economics were viable?

9 replies

gredgy69

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 29 May 2013

Total posts 44

I will be traveling to Perth next year in April for holidays, but could also be going for work in September/October, so was mulling over the preferences - Virgin 737 or Qantas 737/A330. It got me thinking whether Virgin would use the 777's it owns to fly the transcontinental if the economics showed it was viable over the next 3 months or more (loads/expected loads etc). Had nothing better to do at lunch than contemplate. What are people's thoughts? Would Virgin do 1x 777 flight instead of 2x 737 or 1x 777 plus 1 x 737 instead of 3x 737. Or is 777 just too big? Gee wouldn't the lounge on the 777 be nice though?

bl5965

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

Member since 13 Nov 2015

Total posts 81

Originally Posted by gredgy69

I will be traveling to Perth next year in April for holidays, but could also be going for work in September/October, so was mulling over the preferences - Virgin 737 or Qantas 737/A330. It got me thinking whether Virgin would use the 777's it owns to fly the transcontinental if the economics showed it was viable over the next 3 months or more (loads/expected loads etc). Had nothing better to do at lunch than contemplate. What are people's thoughts? Would Virgin do 1x 777 flight instead of 2x 737 or 1x 777 plus 1 x 737 instead of 3x 737. Or is 777 just too big? Gee wouldn't the lounge on the 777 be nice though?

As nice as that seems (I would be first in line!), Boeing 777s are just too big and heavy to do short 4-5 hr transcontinental flights. I can't see Virgin's new owners going ahead with that.

planesa380

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

Member since 05 Sep 2013

Total posts 70

Personally I don't think there will be the demand for multiple daily wide body coast-to-coast routes by September/October. Possibly by April next year. I think Qantas might do it this year but not Virgin.

If your dossing up Virgin 737 vs Qantas 737/A330. If prices are all the same: Qantas A330 first, than Qantas B737, than finally Virgin 737. If the Virgin option is cheaper (say 10%+) than take Virgin.

Whist the idea of the B777 operating Coast-to-Coast routes does sound appealing from a passenger perspective (lie flat seats in business class, premium economy etc.) to make up for the possible loss of A330 on Coast-to-Coast routes. It does have some issues:

Can you fill the plane? If so great. However outside of peak times (i.e school holidays, Christmas etc.) I don't think it would be full year round on a daily freqency. Very generally the cost to operate on a per passenger base on narrow body aircraft is less than of wide body aircraft (even when taking into account for more passenger on the wide body aircraft).

Would having more premium capacity only on one flight result in higher fare or not? Coast-to-Coast can cost over $2000 each way in business class compared to $300 each way in economy, will people still be willing to pay such a premium for a few hours? My firms has cut its travel budget for the next 2 years due to covid-19.

In regards to frequency: Personal and what I'm sure the majority of business travellers in Australia would prefer is frequency. With more departure option I can do work before and take an afternoon flight across the coast (or sleep in) or take an early flight and meet clients when I arrive in the afternoon. Additionally, one of the big selling point with corporate contracts is access to multiple flights a day at a fixed cost. If there was only one flight a day corporate deals could see the fixed cost per seat reduced on coast-to-coast routes or dropped all together in favour of say Qantas.

Aircraft utilisation: Formally the 777 operated flight to LA with roughly the following times: Leave LAX at Midnight arriving into SYD around 7AM Leave SYD at 11AM arrive into LAX around 6AM. Airlines have slots for take-offs and landings in most airports that can cost millions especially at key times (thinks times that work for business travellers). It could be an issue to retime these slots. Plus you couldn't fly coast to coast in 3 hours. Virgin probably could move there slots around in Aus but not LA. So with this in mind you would need to most likely redeploy an aircraft to be based in Australia to operate coast-to-coast routes. This could maybe create two round trip coast-to-coast routes. Plus if there is one flight is delay all 777 flights could be impacted.

Aircraft Use: If you are operating more flights you will also create more pressure cycles on the aircrafts airframes. Not only will there be more wear and tear on the aircraft, you will also need to conduct more maintenance more frequently too. The 777 can only operate 60,000 pressure cycles across its lifespan, with every 4,000 pressure cycles you need to inspect the plane for fatigues crakes in addition to routine maintenance that can take the plane out of action for a day or a few weeks.

Opportunity cost: Could this aircraft be better used on another route and get a better return? Possibly.

The only way I think we could see the 777 operating coast-to-coast routes in the short term is to keep pilots certified but besides that its unlikely unless they can create a business case where it makes sense.

Whist it is a good idea it's a long shot unfortunately.

patrickk

Qantas

Member since 19 Apr 2012

Total posts 521

Originally Posted by gredgy69

I will be traveling to Perth next year in April for holidays, but could also be going for work in September/October, so was mulling over the preferences - Virgin 737 or Qantas 737/A330. It got me thinking whether Virgin would use the 777's it owns to fly the transcontinental if the economics showed it was viable over the next 3 months or more (loads/expected loads etc). Had nothing better to do at lunch than contemplate. What are people's thoughts? Would Virgin do 1x 777 flight instead of 2x 737 or 1x 777 plus 1 x 737 instead of 3x 737. Or is 777 just too big? Gee wouldn't the lounge on the 777 be nice though?

You answered your own question: the economics are not viable over such a short distance. Emirates use them Dubai to South Asia ( within a much larger network) but apart from that they are just to heavy, when there are lighter and more flexible 737s to do the job.

Dan22

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 07 Aug 2013

Total posts 96

Its a worthwhile thought and I wonder if new owners would run the economics of such a scenario. It got me thinking that since a330s will go, there's at minimum 4x 777s that VA own. It costs money to let these aircraft just sit there - maintenance, cycling of fuel through engines etc. These planes can't just sit there without any expense. Yes they are heavier, but but they can carry more pax and more freight. There's some sort of balance that needs to be struck to make this work - in better times instead of 5 or 6 B737 flights a day east west then 2-3 B777s a day on one route, at 3/4 capacity + freight with a 1/4 of fuel required. There's some sort of magic number hidden behind a scenario like this for it to work but that's up to the new company. It would also help maintain the trained B777 crew for when intl does open up in a years time or so. However, the 777s don't fit at VAs domestic gates :p

Last editedby Dan22 at Jul 04, 2020, 01:17 PM.

LostInTransit

Member since 11 Sep 2015

Total posts 5

The short answer is YES, Virgin Australia would certainly use its Boeing 777s for east-west flights if the economics stacked up. Airlines are a business and it pretty much all comes down to economics. Qantas would use A380s for east-west flights if those economics stacked up, too. But to make those economics "stack up" you would need a LOT of passengers and a lot of those willing to pay premium business class fares, as well as a lot of cargo at premium rates too, and the market just isn't big enough for that.

LostInTransit

Member since 11 Sep 2015

Total posts 5

Originally Posted by Dan22

Its a worthwhile thought and I wonder if new owners would run the economics of such a scenario. It got me thinking that since a330s will go, there's at minimum 4x 777s that VA own. It costs money to let these aircraft just sit there - maintenance, cycling of fuel through engines etc. These planes can't just sit there without any expense. Yes they are heavier, but but they can carry more pax and more freight. There's some sort of balance that needs to be struck to make this work - in better times instead of 5 or 6 B737 flights a day east west then 2-3 B777s a day on one route, at 3/4 capacity + freight with a 1/4 of fuel required. There's some sort of magic number hidden behind a scenario like this for it to work but that's up to the new company. It would also help maintain the trained B777 crew for when intl does open up in a years time or so. However, the 777s don't fit at VAs domestic gates :p

Last editedby Dan22 at Jul 04, 2020, 01:17 PM.
The "frequency" argument you make here is a good example of the need for a business model to look at the bigger picture. A lot of travellers will make their decision based on the schedule and frequency of flights, especially for east-west where there is a time change as well as a long flight time. Having two B777s instead of six B737s could work against Virgin if it costs the airline a lot of passengers who might choose Qantas because Qantas has more flights which in turn can better suit the traveller's schedule.

dm12

Member since 08 Feb 2018

Total posts 109

I'd love to see it, PE and an onboard lounge would certainly place their product in an interesting place in the market. I think its going to be difficult for the next 12+ months while demand is depressed and international is challenging. Post-covid they could do the red-eye and then turn onto the US routes. They'll probably be parked up for a while, but could be an interesting option in the medium term,

djtech

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 02 Sep 2018

Total posts 352

Originally Posted by gredgy69

I will be traveling to Perth next year in April for holidays, but could also be going for work in September/October, so was mulling over the preferences - Virgin 737 or Qantas 737/A330. It got me thinking whether Virgin would use the 777's it owns to fly the transcontinental if the economics showed it was viable over the next 3 months or more (loads/expected loads etc). Had nothing better to do at lunch than contemplate. What are people's thoughts? Would Virgin do 1x 777 flight instead of 2x 737 or 1x 777 plus 1 x 737 instead of 3x 737. Or is 777 just too big? Gee wouldn't the lounge on the 777 be nice though?

I think you answered your question already! IF the economics was viable, they would do it for sure! Let's play armchair CEO for a moment and think about how we would run the airline if we had 777s and 737s at your disposal. Given a fixed amount of passengers (X), assuming that this passenger demand doesn't change between types of aircraft (there are only so many passengers wanting to cross the country), let's look at what we could do with both aircraft types. Using a 737, you could run 4-5 flights at multiple different flight times on EACH route to satisfy the demand for the route. If you use a 777, you might only be able to run 1-2 flights, so one or two frequencies per day on each route. Now imagine you are a business traveller (where they make their money mostly). If I want to leave at 7am in the morning, there might be a 737 route on Virgin and another 737 on Qantas. Then its a pretty close choice! If I use a 777, then logically I would choose the peak time to offer the route. Logically, Qantas would also choose to put the a330 to go head on. Then, the benefit of a better product dimishes whilst you offer flights exclusively at peak times.

From a cost perspective, of course, if you could split all available extractable demand into two flights to fill a 777, then by all means that would be the best case scenario. However, that's not how the world works. Not everyone wants to leave at 10am or 4pm. We all want more choice over a marginally better product for most passengers and a superior but ultimately insignficiant advantage of a better business class product if you are sacrificing frequency.

Boeing-Tragic

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

Member since 24 Jan 2018

Total posts 17

What would be REALLY interesting to see is patron selection of flights IF the portal showed which flights were in the 777 and which were on the 737. If I knew I could select a flight with flat beds and the bar, I'd fly business class in the 777 and organise everything else around it.

If other flyers did the same, pretty soon Virgin could see whether there was a business case to deploy the 777-300ER's on the transcontinental routes within AUS.

What say ye?

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