Virgin Atlantic weighing up Melbourne flights

By David Flynn, July 15 2013
Virgin Atlantic weighing up Melbourne flights

Virgin Atlantic is considering introducing flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong, then continuing through to London, as the Richard Branson-backed airline experiences an uptick in travel from Australia to the UK on the back of the Qantas-Emirates alliance.

However, a second daily service from Sydney could also be on the cards, says Virgin Atlantic's General Manager Australia, Luke Fisher.

"Melbourne is definitely a good option" Fisher told The Australian. "Or whether we consolidate with our Sydney focus and move to a second operation, it is really a 50-50 consideration."

Fisher reports that while Virgin Atlantic travellers out of Sydney were once evenly distributed between those who hopped off at Hong Kong and those who continued to London "now there is more London than Hong Kong. And I think that is a direct result of the changes that Qantas and Emirates have made."

Luke Fisher looks to land Australia's second Virgin Atlantic service in Melbourne or Sydney
Luke Fisher looks to land Australia's second Virgin Atlantic service in Melbourne or Sydney

Hong Kong vs Dubai

"There are still people that prefer Hong Kong as a stopover or transit point" Fisher continued, drawing a contrast against Qantas' shift from Singapore to Dubai as the pivot point for its European flights.

"We have seen a transition that more people, when they are going to the UK, would prefer to go this way, whether they are stopping over in Hong Kong or going direct."

A survey conducted by Qantas in March this year saw Hong Kong rated just behind Dubai and Singapore as the most popular transit point or stopover city for flights between Australia and Europe.

After polling travellers on their preferred stopover city, Qantas found that 64% put Singapore at the top of the list, followed by Dubai at 61% (a surprisingly high position, considering that at the time of the poll no Qantas flights were travelling via Dubai) and Hong Kong at 60%.

More options for Melbourne-London

Melbourne's Kangaroo Routes to London already include Qantas and Emirates (via Dubai), Singapore Airlines (via Singapore), Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong), Etihad (Abu Dhabi), Qatar Airways (Doha), Malaysia Airlines (Kuala Lumpur), China Southern (Guangzhou) and Thai Airways (Bangkok).

Garuda Indonesia will join the kangaroo club in November when the airline launches its new Boeing 777-300ER onto the Jakarta-London route.

"We are a niche carrier" Fisher admitted, "we don't make any secrets about that. We are about being an alternative on the Sydney to London route. Having said that, we continue to drive a profit from our operations on this particular route."

Read: The other Kangaroo Routes – eight one-hop ways to get to London

Virgin soft-pedals on SkyTeam

However, Virgin Atlantic has sought to pour cold water on continued speculation that it was set to join the SkyTeam alliance.

Despite the airline's Chief Commercial Officer stating in February this year that it will “probably make sense” to join SkyTeam, CEO Craig Kreeger told USA Today that "for now, Virgin Atlantic remains very happy with the partners we have."

However, Kreeger allowed that "at some point in time in the future, we'll evaluate whether SkyTeam makes sense for us."

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

Dear Richard Branson: yes, please come to Melbourne! 

Too many airlines only serve Sydney.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Jun 2013

Total posts 29

You have Qatar, and RBA for those cheapie J flights to LHR. Those are two excellent options absent from SYD. :(

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

Really? I didn't know that those airlines (especially QR) didn't serve Sydney. I don't feel so hard done by any more, then. 

I was actually looking at flights to LHR the other day and Royal Brunei was $1280! That's crazy.

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 182

Forgot to include Royal Brunei (though with an additional stop in DXB) to the routes.

This is why Virgin Atlantic should come to Melbourne.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 654

the only thing that turns me OFF the VIRGIN 'ENTERPRISE' (ie airlines/trains/telecommunications/beverages/....etc..etc...etc...) ... is when i see SRB's publicity pics / stunts ... the term  'dirty old man' springs to mind...i suppose the brits call it 'eccentric'... somewhat like the airline exec 'character' portrayed on the british tv series..'come fly with me'!! ...THEY BOTH MAKE  ME the end..its a business and profit is no.1.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Frequent Flyer

28 May 2011

Total posts 81

CAPS LOCK in rants makes me cringe :)

I think if you read his books you get a really interesting insight into his character - I really enjoyed his first one! 

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 128

Personally, I love his stunts.  He's clearly got a good sense of humour, and he knows how to get free publicity for his brand.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Nov 2011

Total posts 244

Bring flights to Aust via KUL.

Need some competition for flights to KUL from AU.

AAX and MAS are not really competition as it's 2 different market segments.

Wouldn't it be better for VS to offer two "options" on one route, than having no option on two routes - which are connected by a tiny 1.5hr connection?

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 183

While I would love to see Virgin Atlantic in MEL it is just one more of a long list of airlines that Virgin have been 'weighing up' for years - yet none have commenced.  Jeez, it must be five years since Virgin announced they planned on launching flights to Brazil from London 'soon'.

Fact of the matter is, Virgin is in a pickle in the UK.  It has been cutting back far more than it has been expanding.  

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