Virgin Australia plans big things for business travel in 2013

By John Walton, November 23 2012
Virgin Australia plans big things for business travel in 2013

Virgin Australia plans big things for business travellers in the coming year, with airline CEO John Borghetti using this week's annual general meeting to pull together several smaller pieces of the larger picture.

It's a picture which looks good from Borghetti's perspective, too: the reinvigorated airline has already reached its target of earning 20 percent of domestic revenue from the corporate and government market ahead of schedule.

Here's a quick rundown of what's next, along with other nuggets from the post-AGM press conference.

Streaming entertainment starts in December

Trials will begin next month on streaming inflight entertainment via WiFi so that passengers can use their own tablets, laptops and even smartphones to enjoy movies and music.

Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller that "subject to (the trial) being successful – which we expect it to be – we'll start the (fleet-wide) fit-out round about February, and by the end of 2013 we'll have a large part of our fleet done."

Read more: New Virgin Australia "BYO device" wifi streaming starts next month

New lounges for Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Cairns

2013 could be Virgin's Year of Lounges, although it'll kick off early with next month's ribbon-cutting of what Borghtti calls the new "flagship lounge" at Sydney Airport.

This will be stage one of the project, with an all-new upstairs level – which already plays host to The Club VIP lounge – affording sweeping views of Botany Bay.

Read more: Virgin Australia to open new Sydney airport lounge next month

Borghetti confirmed that lounges for Canberra, Hobart and Cairns, all of which will be done in the airline's now familiar style, will open in 2013, although no specific dates have been announced.

Sydney's upgraded terminal is on track...

December's going to be a big month for Virgin's Sydney terminal.

"Prior to Christmas, Sydney Airport’s Domestic terminal (T2) will see the opening of the extension to our dedicated pier, increasing our gates from 9 to 14," Borghetti promised.

Of those fourteen gates, four will be able to take larger jets like the Airbus A330.

On the topic of Sydney, Borghetti doesn't see the contention issue of a second airport as an either-or proposition when weighed against expanding Sydney airport.

"There's no question that, at some point, we will need (a second) airport," Borghetti admitted straight off.

"But in a global sense there aren't many cities who have an airport 5-6km from the city," he countered, highlighting the benefits of Sydney's relatively close-in terminals.

"When you have an asset like [the location of Sydney Airport], you want to extract all the benefits from it rather than looking elsewhere."

Read more: Sydney Airport's latest plan – add two more runways

Choose between Etihad and Singapore Airlines to Europe...

In a dramatic expansion of Virgin's partnership arrangements, codeshare flights from Australia to Europe can now be booked through both Etihad and Singapore Airlines.

It's a substantial win for business travellers: codeshares were formerly a more exclusive arrangement, with Etihad destinations not covered under the SQ agreement. The new system gives a welcome degree of choice, especially when the flight schedule of one particular airline may better suit your own timetable.

Read more: Your choice of Singapore or Etihad for Europe flights from Australia's east coast

... but no new airline alliances on the horizon

Borghetti has locked down the key players in his 'virtual network' model, which relies on alliances with strategically-positioned partners.

"We now have our four key alliance partners in place (Air New Zealand, Delta, Etihad and Singapore Airlines)," an airline spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller shortly after the AGM, although allowing that "we will continue to look for opportunities to fill specific gaps in our network" such as direct codeshare flights to other destinations.

For all the very latest news and what you need to know about business travel, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 37

Can someone explain the difference between these 'key alliance partners" such as Etihad and SQ vs the 'airline alliances' such as Star Alliance (I mean in terms of the key differences)'s getting too confusing to figure out if its good for me or not! ;)

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

16 Aug 2011

Total posts 9

Key alliance partners are more customised and smaller scale cooperation between airlines, they often have their own agreements in terms tickets, baggage, customer benefits, which can vary between each key alliance.

Airline alliances in this case the Star Alliance that you refer to is a larger scale and more unified form of alliance. More airlines are involved, e.g. Star Alliance presently has 27 member airlines. To join such alliance, each airline member must align their operating standards, procedures etc. with those as set by the alliance collectively as well as set up agreements for systems such as passenger transfers, baggage, lounge access, frequent flyer benefits etc.

Hope that clarifies it.

05 Dec 2011

Total posts 7

Canberra will get the new VIP Lounge as well as a new standard lounge as the exisiting common user terminal will be demolished...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Jan 2012

Total posts 335

Any definite date for the opening of the second wing of the canberra terminal?


10 Sep 2011

Total posts 162

Let me Google that for you.


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Jan 2012

Total posts 335

I couldn't get any more specific than that either.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 233

About time for the Hobart lounge, the Q Club has been there for years, but Virgin and Jetstar hold the bulk of passengers in and out of Hobart. I've heard first hand the complaints of other Virgin High Flyers whilst in the terminal at Hobart.


10 Sep 2011

Total posts 162

No mention of a lounge at Darwin Airport - which is not surprising.  No fault of Virgin - the terminal is a dump and the Terminal Expansion Project doesn't appear to be going anywhere fast, along with the rest of the airport.

Terry Snow from Canberra should buy DIA out and create a Northern Snowtown.  People like Terry Snow have the vision and guts to create a long term viable business and actually make things happen.  Furthermore, noting the state of the real estate market up here with lazy commercial landlords, a Snowtown style development at the airport will not only shake up the market with decent office space, but also provide businesses with environmentally friendly accommodation, something needed in this uncreative town.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Virgin Australia plans big things for business travel in 2013