Virgin Australia continues to spread its wings with today's launch of daily direct flights between Sydney and Darwin.
The direct service will depart Sydney at 9.40am each day and arrive at Darwin at 1.50pm. The return flight leaves Darwin at 2.40pm for wheels-down into Sydney at 7.25pm.
The service puts another pin in Virgin's Australian network map, as it's previously served the top end capital only by flights from Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
The daily Sydney-Darwin service will run on a Boeing 737 fitted with the airline's new business class.
However, when Virgin's press release says the schedule "will complement the new services between Darwin and Singapore which will be operated by Singapore Airlines’ subsidiary, Silk Air", be warned this is not as much about 'connections' as travellers are used to – there are 12 hour gaps between the Virgin and Silk Air flights.
(SilkAir's Darwin-Singapore flight MI802 leaves Darwin at 2.30am, while the incoming Singapore-Darwin flight MI801 arrives Darwin at 1.45am. The bottom line: forget all thoughts of Virgin's Sydney-Darwin flights as the first leg of a Sydney-Darwin-Singapore trip.)
"The Virgin Australia schedule is very much focussed on domestic traffic, as well as US and NZ connections" explains Jim Parashos, Director of Airline & Airport Services for Northern Territory Airports.
"Inbound traffic, say from Asia or Europe to Darwin, will now have a partner airline connection to Sydney to facilitate 'open jaw' traffic" Parashos says ('open jaw' means a booking in which the traveller's inbound and outbound flights are from different cities).
Silk Air's schedule, on the other hand, "is very much focussed on North Asia, South-East Asia and London/Frankfurt connectivity" Parashos says.
"In working with Silk Air to develop the business plan, we undertook customer surveys of the local Darwin market, which highlighted that connectivity over Singapore was the highest priority, as was arriving at your destination between 11am and 4pm – hence the 5.30am arrival into Singapore allows for connections within 2-4 hours to the top markets from Darwin."