Virgin Australia will reduce domestic Airbus A330 flights in order to launch its new Melbourne-Hong Kong route in July 2017.
The unusual schedule of flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong – which will run five days each week but with departure times ranging from shortly after midnight to mid-morning – means that Virgin needs more than one A330 for the route, compared to the single-aircraft requirements of Qantas' fixed timetable.
While Virgin already has one A330 at its disposal due to the cancellation of planned flights between Perth and Abu Dhabi, a second jet from the airline's six-strong A330 fleet will also be drafted for flights to Hong Kong.
Sharing the plane pain
Australian Business Traveller understands that Virgin will reschedule east-west flying so that the A330 will be removed from the three major east-west routes of Sydney-Perth, Melbourne-Perth and Brisbane-Perth rather than pulled off a single city pair.
Brisbane was considered most at risk from such a move, with only one A330 running most days a week as VA474 and VA469, but by spreading the load Virgin has avoided its spiritual base from becoming a Boeing 737-only transcontinental route.
The overnight 'redeye' flights from Perth to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will all remain on the well-appointed A330s, Virgin says.
Qantas could soon face a similar situation, with the airline last week granted "unlimited capacity and frequency" on Australia-China flights by Australia's International Air Services Commission.
The flights can be operated by Qantas or Jetstar, in addition to codeshare services with partner China Eastern.
Qantas already flies between Sydney and Shanghai, and in January 2017 restarted its Sydney-Beijing route, with both routes on an Airbus A330, and its 18-strong fleet of domestic A330-200 jets provides a deep pool from which Qantas could draw.