Virgin Australia says it won't rush into putting its Airbus A330s onto international routes, despite the aircraft being suitably configured for medium-range international flights to destinations such as Asia.
The airline is set to receive the last in its order of eight A330s this September, and is currently evaluating that aircraft's role in the Virgin Australia network.
But Virgin's chief commercial officer Judith Crompton says a new international destination would need to be "extremely commercially viable", compared to the efficiencies offered by using partner airlines such as Air New Zealand, Delta, Etihad and Singapore Airlines.
"We're now spending the time evaluating what we're actually going to do with that A330, so over the next couple of months we should actually have a decision on that" Crompton told The Australian.
"Because it comes in September, I would probably like to have it in the selling system for wherever we're sending it to over the next couple of months, so we can maximise all of those revenue opportunities."
Virgin's fleet of seven A330s is currently fully committed to the airline's 'Coast to Coast' service of trans-continental flights between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has hinted that the A330 fleet's business class cabin will undergo an upgrade with new fully flat-bed seats replacing the current angled lie-flat designs, in response to Qantas' planned A330 Business Suite.
Singapore is often mooted as a potential A330 route for Virgin Australia, however this would see Virgin competing with its partner and 20% stakeholder Singapore Airlines which already offers several flights per day from most Australian capital cities, with several on its flagship Airbus A380s.
Singapore is also a heavily saturated route says Carolyn Holmes, Sydney-based aviation analyst for J.P. Morgan.
"As one example, using the BITRE data we estimate that since the Qantas/Emirates partnership, in the six months ending September 2013, Qantas International has added 56% more seats or 197,000 on its Australia-Singapore routes while Singapore Airlines has added 8.2% or 136,000" she says, while "new entrant Scoot has added a further 79,000 and Tigerairways 21,000."
This has seen Qantas' "seat utilisation ratio" on Singapore flights fall from 78.6% to 69% over that period, Holmes reflects, with Singapore Airlines seeing its own seat utilisation edge down from 79.2% to 76.1%.
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