Virgin Australia hopes to begin Airbus A330 flights on its second Asian route – most likely Hong Kong or on the Chinese mainland – by this time next year.
"We've got the aircraft, we're just missing the (airport) slots and we're working on that," Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti said following the airline's annual general meeting held in Brisbane this week.
"We're working hard on getting additional slots in a couple of cities (which) could be Hong Kong or in China or anywhere else (in Asia)."
"I'd like to think by this time next year we will have those slots, but it's a process," Borghetti expanded.
"People said 12 months ago 'You’ll never get slots in Hong Kong, but we now have seven', so by this time next year I’m hopeful we will be flying" into a new Asian city.
Virgin opened its Melbourne-Hong Kong route in July 2017, with flights now running daily, and has its eye on both the Sydney-Hong Kong and Brisbane-Hong Kong corridors as well as the Chinese mainland – which are expected to be hubs used by airlines owned by or affiliated to Virgin Australia stakeholder HNA.
"By the end of 2018 we will be in mainland China," Borghetti assured Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the Melbourne-Hong Kong launch in July 2017.
But he stressed the Chinese capital wasn't on that list. "I have no intention of going to Beijing."
"We're leaving a lot of options open because it depends on slots, but i don't see a situation where in three years we are not operating to two places in China, and Hong Kong, and another place in Asia... I just can't see that not happening."
While this sounds like a stretch for Virgin's international fleet – which has all five Boeing 777s committed to Los Angeles and just six Airbus A330s – "you can always get aircraft", Borghetti said.
"It's actually not that hard... if we want an aircraft we can get one next month, because there are leasing companies that have got spots."
It's perhaps fortuitous that HNA also operates the world’s third-largest rental fleet, with over 900 jets valued at over US$43 billion.
"So I’m not really worried about getting aircraft, it's more about making sure your destinations work," Borghetti affirmed.