Executive Traveller exclusive
Virgin Australia will reveal the new shape of its business class proposition next month as the spearhead of a sweeping reset for the airline under CEO Jayne Hrdlicka and owners Bain Capital.
The ‘Virgin Australia 2.0’ package will also include the launch of a buy-on-board menu in economy class to replace free snacks and drinks; a decision on inflight WiFi, which has remained switched off while Virgin re-evaluates the service; and potentially the fate of The Club, Virgin’s invitation-only tier created by former CEO John Borghetti to rival the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.
Aesthetic hints of the new Virgin Australia vibe will be on display at the airline’s Adelaide lounge which opens later this month and introduces a fresh, more relaxed look which will eventually be rolled out to other domestic lounges.
A spokesman for Virgin Australia confirmed to Executive Traveller the airline wants a March launch to ensure the new offering is in place ahead of the Easter school holidays.
Executive Traveller understands that the impact of rolling state border closures, especially on business travel, has added to the complexity of Virgin’s planned rollout.
Virgin Australia is currently flying around 40% of its domestic capacity, with corporate travel still well below expectation.
Having completed an ‘end-to-end’ review of its business class experience – covering everything from meals to pricing – Virgin intends to realign the premium cabin towards what Hrdlicka has repeatedly described as a “value-conscious” segment comprising both business and leisure travellers.
“We know that leisure travellers, small and medium businesses, and many corporates are now emerging from COVID-19 wanting better value,” she says.
“They are hungry for flexibility and choice, a trusted brand that resonates with their values, and great prices, along with the premium features they value most.”
However, the rebooted Virgin will soar into newly-competitive skies again not only incumbent Qantas but newcomer Regional Express, which will launch its own Sydney-Melbourne flights – replete with cut-price business class – on March 1.
Rex kicked off its assault on the ‘golden triangle’ with Sydney-Melbourne business class fares at $299 – the same as Virgin’s entry-level Business Saver tickets – but this week unleashed a slew of seats across March at $199, a rate Virgin Australia quickly matched.
Not only is Rex’s mid-market position the same as that adopted by Virgin Australia, but it will fly six Boeing 737s previously leased by Virgin Australia and thus sporting the exact same seats.
Regional Express plans to add Brisbane to its nascent jet network in April, which will further crowd the east coast corridor as Qantas, Virgin and Rex embark on a fierce dogfight for a slice of what’s now a much smaller business travel pie.