Why Virgin Australia needed the Virgin Atlantic deal
Better flights to the UK are at the top of the list.
That was largely a formality after the joint venture received a broad tick of approval back in September.
Despite sharing the same big red Bransonesque logo, the two Virgins are entirely separate businesses. While they already have a basic codeshare deal for flights to London via either Hong Kong or Los Angeles, cooperating more closely required permission from the regulator.
One of the key benefits promised by the new arrangement is "joint scheduling". More particularly, Virgin wants to make it easier for passengers to fly direct to the United Kingdom on Virgin-branded services.
While that's possible right now with codeshare flights (a deal the two airlines lined up back in May 2018), it isn't a particularly convenient option.
As an example, looking up Virgin flights from Sydney to London, the airline offers me two choices:
- A flight via Hong Kong, with a seven-hour stopover and a terminal change.
- A flight via Los Angeles, with an even more brutal nine-hour stopover (plus the need to clear customs in LAX, which is absolutely no-one's idea of a good time).
Those gaps are big enough to allow plenty of room for improvement, even acknowledging that scoring slots at those airports is competitive.
That doesn't mean we can expect to see any immediate changes. As Virgin Australia's original submission noted, there's major redevelopment currently happening at LAX. Any improvements to create a "one Virgin" experience will be dependent on that work finishing. Uniting in a single terminal in Hong might happen a little sooner, but there's still no timetable locked in.
One recent complication is Virgin's recent announcement that it will drop flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong next year. That suggests that flying to the UK via Los Angeles might be the route that the airlines focus on. That in turn would put Virgin Australia in competition with one-time partner Air New Zealand, which is planning direct flights from Auckland to New York with partner connections on to London.
Regardless, for frequent flyers, the alliance should be good news. Me, I'm hanging out for the ability to book Virgin Atlantic reward flights directly online.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on Finder.