Virgin Australia kicks off its Capital Connect shuttle service between Sydney and Canberra today, adding extra flights to the route as well as free in-flight refreshments.
In a play for the patronage of politicians, public servants, lobbyisys and others who travel to and from from the country's capital, Virgin Australia will now run up to eight return flights between Canberra and Sydney.
Once new Skywest-flown services services -- on brand new ATR turboprop aircraft -- get underway in October, a further two returns will be added to the schedule.
The free food and drinks offered vary according to the time of day. Virgin Australia has declared the 6am-9am period as 'Start my Day', with 'Keep Me Going' refreshments from 9.30am to 4.00pm, before 'Winding Down' from 4pm to the last flight.
Those 'Winding Down' flights will include complimentary beer and wine, while free newspapers will be handed out on flights before noon (we know which one we'd rather have).
Martin Daley, Virgin Australia's Group Executive for Product and Guest Services, describes the food as "high quality gourmet snacks" although the airline hasn't gone into specifics.
The arrangement sounds remarkably like the Koru Hour service from Virgin Australia's partner airline Air New Zealand, where domestic passengers across the Tasman get nibbles and drinks that vary according to the time of day. For example, on morning flights Air New Zealand offers muesli, muffins, cereal clusters and so on.
The "Capital Connect" name plays off Qantas' "Cityflyer" brand used for weekday hops between Australian capital cities -- a move that Virgin Australia boss John Borghetti foreshadowed at the introduction of relaunch of the Virgin Blue brand, with the airline hinting it might introduce ancillary brands.