The Auckland based carrier, Air New Zealand, and the Sydney-based Virgin Australia launched their much anticipated trans-Tasman alliance, with code-share flights and other domestic services going on sale for travel starting July 26, 2011.
Trans-Tasman is an informal agreement between Australia and New Zealand allowing free movement of citizens between the two countries."Tasman" is derived from the Tasman Sea which divides the two countries.
The arrangement connects Virgin Australia's 29 domestic destinations to Air New Zealand's 27 domestic destinations. This creates the largest ever Australasian network for trans-Tasman tourists and travellers. Both airlines worked to align their fare structures, products and services so travellers receive the same top-of-the-line service.
Air New Zealand Group General Manager Bruce Patron said, "Product consistency is an important part of this alliance and in addition to the joint offering announced today, there will be further improvements to both airlines' products and services as we move towards an integrated alliance trans-Tasman flight schedule in November. We have also worked hard to ensure that the booking process is clear for our customers, spelling out which airline they will be flying on and the inclusions involved," he added.
According to a press release, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia trans-Tasman services will offer the following:
- Reciprocal Frequent Flyer programmes that cover both airlines' networks, enabling Airpoints and Velocity members to earn and redeem frequent flyer points on each other's services;
- Reciprocal lounge access for eligible customers;
- Priority seating in dedicated zones for the highest tier frequent flyers;
- Priority Check-in, Baggage and Boarding for Premium Guests and eligible Airpoints and Velocity members; and
- Complimentary tea, coffee and water in-flight to all customers, as well as a food and beverage service for customers on the relevant fare types. The new Virgin Australia food and beverage service includes a continental breakfast, lunchtime wrap or evening meal with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
The reciprocal lounge access for eligible customers feature added means that all members of Virgin's Velocity and Air New Zealand's Airpoints can still earn and redeem frequent flyer points on each other's services as well as priority seating for the top-tier flyers, priority check-in, baggage and boarding for premium passengers and eligible Velocity and Airpoints members.
"Customers are from today seeing the first benefits of the new alliance, which we will continue to develop over coming months. From July 26, Virgin Australia customers will have almost three times as many departure times for trans-Tasman travel, as well as new products and services, including wide-body business class,"Virgin Australia Group Executive Commercial Liz Savage said.
"Our dedicated teams continue to work closely on implementing the alliance and from November, our new trans-Tasman alliance network will offer improved connectivity and more convenient flight times across many routes," she added.
Another feature both airlines are working on is a better integrated trans-Tasman schedule to remove duplicate flights and adding new direct services. Air New Zealand's Cam Wallace said that the first thing they need to do is remove what is called 'wingtip' flying, where the airplanes take off within half an hour of each other. "That doesn't provide any consumer benefit in terms of choice in the schedule. And we know that schedule and frequency are big drivers for our corporate customers," he said.
Travellers are advised to check the airlines websites for additional details and information.