According to Richard Branson in an Interview with Your Money, Virgin Atlantic wants to start flights between London Heathrow and Perth, Australia as soon as possible. The move would make the new flight the longest Virgin offers and will come into direct competition with Qantas own 17-hour ultra long-haul trip on the same route.
Virgin has Form
If you are familiar with the story of Virgin Atlantic, this move will come as no surprise. Virgin has built its success on jumping into profitable routes, and then offering a better product and service to gain market share. That is how it the company established itself in the transatlantic market, and even to this day, many travelers regard the hard product offered by Virgin to be better than most of the competition, especially in premium cabins.
Qantas has launched a service from Perth to London, and by all accounts, it has been a great success. According to the West Australian, the flights are operating at 92% capacity, with occupancy in premium cabins at 94% capacity. This profitable route is exactly the kind of market that Virgin Atlantic likes to jump in on and get a slice of the action.
Qantas operates Boeing 787-9 aircraft on the route, which is at the extreme end of their range. Qantas has six B787-9 which it uses on its ultra long-haul routes to Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and New York, from hubs in Melbourne and Brisbane. Fortunately for Virgin, it has a fleet of 17 Boeing 787-9 which it can deploy on its new route to Perth.
More Routes to Come
While the flights from Perth have been a success for Qantas, the big prize is operating a nonstop service from London to Sydney or Melbourne. Unfortunately, that is beyond the range of all current commercial aircraft. It is possible the new Airbus A350-1000 could make the trip, although it would require some modifications to boost its range. Qantas is also considering the upcoming Boeing 777x as a possibility for taking on the monster flights from Sydney to London. Sadly, we will have to wait until technology catches up with Qantas’s ambitions.
Virgin Atlantic has a habit of zeroing in and grabbing a slice of the pie, so we would fully expect the company to launch its service to Perth, and in all likelihood, it will be successful. In the long run, we could even see Virgin competing with Qantas on other direct routes to Australia from London.