Today, Virgin Blue revealed the new in-flight staff uniforms designed by the Australian Project Runway winner Juli Grbac, as well as provided additional information about expanding their fleet to offer business class. Trying to lure some of the higher-yield corporate traffic away from Qantas, Virgin Blue’s CEO John Borghetti said, “With our competitive pricing strategy, we believe this will be a compelling proposition for corporate travelers, whether they travel in business or economy class.” Meanwhile, Qantas last week announced increased capacity on the top two long haul flights from Perth to Sydney & Melbourne, and allocated internationally configured Boeing 747 and Airbus A330 aircraft to the routes.
Virgin Blue has ordered A330 aircraft that will be deployed first on the Sydney to Perth market. Offering two cabins, business class looks quite comfortable, and will feature leather seats with a 62-inch pitch in what will likely be a 2 x 2 x 2 arrangement. As I’m a seat map nut, I’ll be anxiously awaiting that full cabin configuration when it’s available. Delivery of the first two A330s won’t be until May this year, so Qantas will have a nice head-start in hopefully securing continued loyalty with their business class offering on the widebodies. As it stands presently, Virgin Blue offers a “Premium Economy” fare for seats in the first three rows of the 737s, for which they block the middle seat and provide a few inches of additional legroom. Virgin Blue is claiming business class will be introduced fleet-wide by December 31st.
Lounge options are presently available for Virgin Blue domestic flyers in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Three additional lounges will be added by the end of the year, the first of which will open June 30 at Coolangatta airport on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
While the single-class concept worked initially for Virgin Blue, seeking higher revenue traffic makes total sense in today’s economy, and perhaps might make the carrier’s entry into Star Alliance even more of a possibility. I mentioned in a post back in December that I’d love to have a Star carrier in Australia, and Virgin Blue’s chief Borghetti was in attendance at the Star Alliance CEOs meeting. My fingers are still crossed!