Bain Capital aims to finalise its takeover of Virgin Australia around the middle of November, with the airline charting a new course as a mid-market competitor against both Qantas and Jetstar.
Administrator Deloitte struck a $3.5 billion deal to sell the collapsed airline to the US private equity firm on June 26, and hoped to see full ownership transferred by the end of October, but a few final formalities remain.
A Federal Court hearing scheduled for November 10 will consider the transfer of all shares in parent company Virgin Australia Holdings to Bain Capital.
A Deloitte spokesman tells Executive Traveller that step will be directly followed by enacting Chapter 15 of the US Bankruptcy legislation, which is required as many of Virgin's aircraft and engine lessors are based in the US.
"Given the timing of the above, the Administrators will seek to achieve financial close ASAP after both orders are received," the spokesman said, adding that this was likely to take place in the week commencing November 16.
Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah will remain on deck until that "financial close", at which point newly-minted CEO Jayne Hrdlicka – whose controversial appointment was announced last month – will step up.
Virgin's new customer experience takes shape
Meanwhile, Virgin continues to work on its revised 'customer experience' proposition to suit the airline's fresh value-oriented approach.
This will address several hot-button issues such as lounges, inflight meals and Virgin's new business class package.
"We are committed to providing leisure and corporate customers with best in class service, a comprehensive network of domestic and short-haul international destinations, lounges, and an award-winning loyalty program," a Virgin Australia spokesman told Executive Traveller.
As previously reported, Virgin is weighing the removal of snacks from economy in favour of a buy-on-board model, along with the closure of its elite Club lounges and a reboot of its inflight WiFi product.
The airline plans to relaunch with 56 Boeing 737s, pared back from a pre-collapse workhorse fleet of 85, flying to an equally slimmed-down domestic network.
Virgin Australia Chief Operations Officer Stuart Aggs has noted the reboot fleet "allows us to have a solid ramp-up plan when demand returns."
"We intend to grow the fleet to 75+ aircraft in the longer term", Aggs told staff in early September, but said this expansion would be done on a "demand-led" basis.
"To do this, we’ll be taking advantage of the current aircraft market for used 737s. We expect to see opportunities to secure additional aircraft over the coming months when demand returns and we will actively monitor this."
Of the strategy to rebuild using pre-loved Boeing 737s, Aggs said it would "reduce the costs to the business, will make us more competitive and sustainable, and means we avoid holding costs of keeping the aircraft on the ground when we’re not using them."
With its ATR-72 turboprops removed from service, Virgin intends to work closer with Brisbane-based Alliance Airlines for coverage of up to 40 regional routes.