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."
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.
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."
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.
... 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.
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