Fresh from finalizing the sale of Virgin Australia on Tuesday, the proud new owners of Australia’s second airline have finally revealed what the rebirthed version of Virgin Australia will look like. Today, Virgin Australia said it would compete in its mid-market heartland for guests who want a more premium experience at an affordable and competitive price.
“Australia already has a low-cost-carrier and a traditional full-service airline, and we won’t be either. Virgin Australia will be a mid-market carrier appealing to customers who are after a great value airfare and better service,” says CEO and MD Jayne Hrdlicka on her first day on the job.
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For most Virgin Australia passengers, not much will change
Virgin Australia today told passengers to expect the following;
- A commitment to retain a domestic market share of roughly one third (as was pre-COVID);
- A network of lounges to open as travel demand resumes, with the Brisbane Lounge re-opening today;
- A new-look Virgin Australia Lounge of the future will open in Adelaide in early 2021. This new look will roll out across the lounge network over time;
- Creating a more accessible business class offering to better align with the expectations of the cabin’s core customers;
- New self-service and assisted check-in and baggage drop facilities will open at mainline airports;
The launch of an updated and more integrated Virgin Australia app providing an enhanced guest experience for Velocity Frequent Flyer members;
- A comprehensive network of domestic and regional destinations; and
- A commitment to regional Australia, including the restructuring of Virgin Australia Regional Airlines to become a more sustainable and profitable business following a comprehensive business review.
Ms Hrdlicka confirmed Virgin Australia would stick with its three cabin choices, economy, economy X, and business. She says that while the airline will strive to serve all sections of the market, its eye will firmly be on the Virgin Australia loyalists and frequent flyers.
“Today, we’ve announced a plan that will ultimately give our customers what they value without the big price tag: premium lounges, a new and fresh retail offering onboard, a choice of cabins, better digital technology, and a more streamlined check-in experience.”
The airline has confirmed the complimentary snack in economy and economy X will disappear from early next year. Replacing it is a buy-on-board menu that Virgin Australia described as “fresh and exciting.” We’ll see. Complimentary tea, coffee, and water will remain.
Most lounges to re-open
Regular Virgin Australia travelers will welcome the re-opening of the lounges, with Brisbane already open. The lounges’ continuing closure had been a sore point with passengers, especially business class passengers and long-standing lounge cardholders.
There has been speculation Virgin Australia would trim its lounge network. The airline had previously announced the Alice Springs, Mackay, and Wellington lounges would permanently close. At a bare minimum, the lounge network will include Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Brisbane, and Perth. Today, Ms Hrdlicka struck an upbeat tone on the subject, saying the lounge experience would be “re-imagined.”
When asked about Virgin Australia in an interview earlier today, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce wished his competitor well, saying Virgin Australia had once been a good airline. He wasn’t too fussed about any competitive threat a rebirthed Virgin Australia presented. Mr Joyce said he doubted that Virgin Australia could ever match Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar when it came to the all-important network capacity.
Today’s announcement was widely expected following the completion of the sale process. It was also widely anticipated. Regular passengers wanted some reassurance about the airline’s future direction. Today’s announcement suggests that overall, not all that much is going to change for passengers. Jayne Hrdlicka says Virgin Australia will continue to evolve its offering, but ” the Virgin Australia experience millions of travelers know and love is here to stay.”