BY JAMES WILKINSON
The biggest secret in Australian aviation is out of the bag, with Virgin Blue rebranding as Virgin Australia as the company continues to chase a larger segment of the lucrative business and corporate travel market.
Virgin Chairman and founder Sir Richard Branson was on hand at Sydney Airport yesterday (May 9) as the airline’s first two aircraft featuring the new brand and an enhanced onboard product, including Business Class, were revealed to media and industry leaders.
Sir Richard BRanson unveils the new Virgin Australia
The launch of a new brand (which will replace Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue and V Australia), widebody aircraft for domestic services and Business Class is a far cry from how Virgin Blue was born in August 2000 as a low-cost carrier.
Branson, who hinted at one brand for the company in an exclusive interview with SpiceNews in late 2010, said he was proud of the Australian carrier’s transition over the last decade.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with the new look and feel of Virgin Australia’s domestic product and I know it will shake up the Australian travel market on an even larger scale than it did 10 years ago,” he said.
“What you see here today is a great airline that now represents what the Virgin brand does worldwide: style, innovation, quality and value for money, along with the best service.
“The new brand, livery, product and service offering will help to transform Virgin Australia into a contemporary dynamic airline with a product to compete with the best worldwide.
“Providing an attractive Business Class offering means we can continue to offer the best value airfares in the sky, regardless of which class you fly,” Branson said.
Initially, the new brand will replace Virgin Blue domestically and according to Virgin Australia Airline’s CEO, John Borghetti, it would encapsulate the other brands in the group by the end of 2011.
“From today, Virgin Australia will operate domestically in Australia,” he said at yesterday’s launch. “By the end of the year, our international product V Australia and Pacific Blue will also operate under the Virgin Australia name.
“Virgin Australia will be the airline of choice for all market segments. We will do this by bringing the magic back to flying – providing a seamless experience, with excellent service that can be tailored to the individual.
“In re-positioning the airline we have kept all the great attributes for which Virgin Blue is renowned – the ‘can-do’ attitude, the competitive pricing and the genuine friendly service – and we have elevated it to a new level,” Borghetti said.
As part of the new look, a number of changes have also been made to the onboard product, including the launch of a new domestic Business Class, which is set to debut on the airline’s new Airbus A330-200 aircraft between Sydney and Perth this month and to be on sale on the Boeing 737 fleet before the end of 2011.
The airline’s new Airbus A330-200
At the launch, Borghetti also flagged a revamp of the airline’s Velocity rewards program before the end of the year, along with a new look for Virgin’s lounges in Brisbane and Melbourne.
“We are very proud of the progress we have made in less than 12 months… it’s all due to the hard work and dedication of our excellent team and we have many more exciting developments to come,” Borghetti said.
“Ten years ago Virgin Blue changed the game in the Australian aviation industry. Now through our Game Change Program, Virgin Australia will transform the Australian airline industry as we know it and provide Australians with more choice and a superior travel experience.”
In partnership with Skywest Airlines, Virgin Australia will also introduce the first of 18 new turboprop ATR aircraft this year to operate on regional routes.