Freshly onsold and relaunched, Virgin Australia is wrapping up 2020 with a spring in its step (or should that be, some flex in its wings?) as internal border restrictions wind back and flights to key destinations resume. After a tough year, Virgin Australia is getting back onto its feet. Here are five things Simple Flying is excited about with a rebooted Virgin Australia.
A value airline with some nice touches
The rebooted Virgin Australia is positioning itself as a value airline with some nice touches. It’s a tough market position to sit in. But if Virgin Australia can pull it off, the airline will sit in the comfortable middle between pricy Qantas and no-frills Jetstar.
It’s a market position that might resonate. For most short-haul flights, people want reliability and on-time arrivals rather than hot meals. On a one-hour flight, how many complimentary drinks can you reasonably consume?
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Virgin Australia has always been good at the intangible things that add value – friendly flight attendants, running priority boarding properly, sorting out your connection problems without a fuss. These are the sort of low-cost, high-value nice touches that always made flying with Virgin Australia a pleasure.
Virgin Australia is staying in the regions
There was a fear a rebooted Virgin Australia would skip regional flying in favor of inter-capital trunk routes, making Virgin Australia more of a skeleton domestic airline than a national domestic airline.
But recent interim authorization by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for Virgin Australia to work with Alliance Airlines means they’ll be staying in the regions.
That’s great news for everyone who lives outside one of the big cities or who wants to go there. Virgin Australia and Alliance Airlines plan to work together on about 40 regional routes around Australia. That means Virgin Australia will be in places like Mt Isa, Coffs Harbour, Kalgoorlie, and Mildura.
Taking it up to the competition
Three months ago, it looked like Virgin Australia would curl up and let Qantas walk all over it. Qantas was lining up to pinch all its corporate customers and high-value frequent flyers.
Qantas is still having a red hot crack at it, but there are some signs Virgin Australia is attempting to hold on to corporate customers and its long-standing passenger base. Earlier this month, a Virgin Australia statement said;
“The airline (will) compete in its mid-market heartland for guests who want a more premium experience at an affordable and competitive price.
“It will build its proposition around its long-standing and most loyal guests, which include price-conscious corporate travelers, small to medium businesses, premium leisure travelers, and holidaymakers.”
By offering decent fares, frequencies, and network coverage, there’s a lot of non-rusted on Qantas travelers out there who’d be willing to give a rebooted Virgin Australia go.
The lounges are getting a makeover
While Virgin Australia’s lounge footprint is getting trimmed, with lounges in airports like Alice Springs, Cairns, and Mackay getting closed, the remaining lounges are set for a makeover. The rebuilt Adelaide lounge is opening early next year. In its statement earlier this month, Virgin Australia said;
“The Lounge is a prototype of the Virgin Australia Lounge of the future and will provide customers with an experience and aesthetic more aligned to the Virgin brand they know and love. The new design will roll out to the lounge network over time.”
Hopefully, that will mean the end of the weird low slung chairs and the clinical white color palette. On the other hand, it has been a while between Virgin Australia toasties – they should stay.
Fixing the economy class short-haul “meal”
Let’s face it, despite marketing itself as a full-service airline, the short-haul economy class food and beverage offering on Virgin Australia up until its collapse was abysmal. Business class food was fine but in economy class, what was often marketed as a “meal” turned out to be a twin-pack of Tim Tams. It wasn’t Virgin Australia’s strongest point.
Now, the rebooted airline is dropping that whole charade. From early 2021, a new buy onboard menu will replace the existing snack. It makes good sense, particularly on short flights. If you want food, buy it. If not, don’t. Far better than walking on hungry expecting lunch and getting a biscuit. Tea, coffee, and water will stay free.
Free or not, hopefully, Virgin Australia will also sort the coffee out. It always tasted like something Starbucks would be embarrassed to sell.
Rebooting and re-positioning an airline is always a tough ask. Longstanding passengers have high expectations, old gripes, and long memories. New passengers often want all the extras without paying the bucks – that’s especially so operating in the middle market where Virgin Australia plans to.
But there’s lots to look forward to in 2021 with Virgin Australia. What do you think Virgin Australia needs to do to succeed in the middle market? Post a comment and let us know.