Despite jettisoning its internationally-configured Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft, Virgin Australia is mapping out its return to overseas flying: particularly to the United States, as well as New Zealand.
Although the airline will run an all-Boeing 737 fleet in the short term, as time progresses and international travel restrictions ease, a new type of aircraft is set to join the Virgin Australia fleet, allowing it to fly from continent to continent.
Speaking at today's CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit, Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah confirmed that “we do intend to go back to the markets we were flying in … and commit to a new widebody fleet.”
Closer to home, “if New Zealand opened up soon, we’d jump at it, because we’ve got aircraft we want to deploy. New Zealand is a part of our future plan, so as soon as we can be back there, the better.”
The airline has been advocating for a ‘travel bubble’ to open up between Australia and New Zealand, although Scurrah believes it won’t be a broad bubble to begin with.
“I think it may be, selectively, market by market, so it might be a city or two to start with: but if we can get it to be a blanket Australian bubble as quickly as possible, it’d be good for everybody.”
With Virgin Australia’s own international network remaining paused for now, partnerships with other airlines will be key to filling the gaps and retaining the appeal of both Virgin Australia and Velocity Frequent Flyer with corporate travellers.
One of Virgin’s current key partners, Singapore Airlines, is likely to remain on board under the relaunched Virgin Australia.
“Singapore Airlines is very important to us, and they acknowledge that we’re important to them,” Scurrah says.
Under the airlines’ existing reciprocal partnership, Virgin and Singapore Airlines codeshare on each other’s flights, while members of the Velocity and KrisFlyer frequent flyer programs can earn and burn points on the opposing airline’s flights.
Tiered frequent flyers – such as Velocity Gold and Platinum, and KrisFlyer Elite Gold, PPS Club and Solitaire PPS Club – also enjoy similar treatment when travelling on the partnered airline, with perks such as priority check-in, priority boarding and airport lounge access part of the parcel.
“We’ve had very good discussions with the partners that we had pre-COVID, (and) we’re going to have a very good international offering going forward … a very strong suite of partners overseas from an alliance point of view, a frequent flyer point of view; and those are things we know are very important to the corporate market,” says Scurrah.
However, he tips that “we haven’t ruled out anything in terms of partnerships or alliances,” hinting that some partnerships may begin, or others wrapped up, as Virgin Australia’s future international plans come together.