Virgin Australia will axe its flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles but ramp up the Brisbane-USA route to a daily service.
The last flight from Melbourne to LAX will run on 25 October 2014, with Brisbane stepping up from four flights a week to daily from 26 October 2014 on the airline's long-range Boeing 777 jet.
"The changes announced today are a result of extensive market analysis" said Virgin Australia’s Chief Commercial Officer Judith Crompton.
Virgin will shutter its Melbourne-Los Angeles flights only three days before United Airlines begins a direct Melbourne-Los Angeles service on its new Boeing 787-9 on October 28.
That flight on the newer, quieter and jetlag-busting Dreamliner will begin six days a week but shift to a daily frequency from March 2015.
For its part Qantas will add a second flight between Melbourne and Los Angeles on selected days over the December-January period to cope with seasonal demand, with a Boeing 747 supplementing the daily Airbus 380 service.
Increasingly sharp competition is not the only factor in Virgin's decision – the airline's lack of a crew base in Melbourne has contributed to higher operational costs on this route.
By comparison, Brisbane is the airline's operational HQ and sees it facing only a single daily Qantas service to Los Angeles, while Virgin's move to daily BNE-LAX flights is expected to boost bookings among business travellers who value the daily frequency.
Although there has been some speculation that US carrier and Virgin Australia partner Delta Air Lines could begin flying the Melbourne-Los Angeles route, a spokeswoman for Delta told Australian Business Traveller "we do not have a current plan to launch new service between Melbourne and Los Angeles."
Virgin says there will also be "a minor change to the departure time of Sydney to Los Angeles flights to allow an earlier arrival into Los Angeles, creating a more convenient schedule for corporate and leisure travellers."
As of 26 October the Sydney-Los Angeles VA1 flight will leave at 11.40am compared to the current 12.05pm schedule, which sees touchdown at LAX at 7.30am the same day.
The return hop on VA2 will now leave Los Angeles at 10.50pm instead of 9.15pm, reaching Sydney at 7.50am two days later.
Virgin says that travellers who have already booked on the VA23/VA24 Melbourne to Los Angeles service for travel on or after 26 October 2014 "will be contacted by their travel provider to discuss alternative options".
“Those travelling from Melbourne will still be able to travel to Los Angeles on one ticket with through-checked baggage, connecting through Sydney or Brisbane, and we are committed to providing competitive fares on these routes" the airline promises.
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