Virgin Blue rebrands as ‘Virgin Australia’; aims to take on Qantas

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Published: May 5, 2011

Virgin Australia A330. Courtesy photo.

Virgin Blue and its associate airlines—V Australia and Pacific Blue—will be rebranded “Virgin Australia” after Singapore Airlines, 49% owner of Virgin Atlantic Airways, reached an agreement with Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson regarding the use of the Virgin name on international services to/from Australia.

At the rebranding announcement on Wednesday in Sydney, Branson promised to revolutionize air travel in Australia with the new look, just as he did 10 years ago when Virgin Blue effectively put Ansett out of business with its low fares. But this time his sights, and those of Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti, are squarely set on Qantas and its corporate clients. Virgin Australia is being pitched as an upmarket product (ATW Daily News, Mar. 2).

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the new look and feel of Virgin Australia’s domestic product and I know it will shake up the Australian travel market on an even larger scale than it did 10 years ago,” Branson told ATW. The new makeover, both exterior and interior, is styled after Virgin America, which has won a string of awards for its zany approach and product, including the ATW 2011 Passenger Service award (ATW, Feb. 1).

Branson said Wednesday that the new “brand, livery, product and service offering will help to transform Virgin Australia into a contemporary dynamic airline with a product to compete with the best.” (See related article on Branson in Today’s Other Headlines.)

Cornerstone of the revamp will be using the Airbus A330 for transcontinental routes fitted with 27 business-class seats. Additionally, eight business-class seats will be installed on the airline’s fleet of Boeing 737-700s/800s.

On Wednesday the first two aircraft sporting the new livery—a 737-800 and an A330—touched down in Sydney. Borghetti said the consolidation of the brand into one was a pivotal point in the airline’s “game change program.”

“Virgin Australia will be the airline of choice for all market segments. We will do this by bringing the magic back to flying,” said Borghetti. “We have kept all the great attributes for which Virgin Blue is renowned: The ‘can-do’ attitude, the competitive pricing and the genuine friendly service. And we have elevated it to a new level.”

As part of the deal to buy 49% of Virgin Atlantic in 2000, SIA was given a veto on the use of the Virgin brand in the Asia/Pacific region outside of Australia, forcing Virgin Blue to brand its international operations Pacific Blue for regional services and V Australia for long-haul operations. Analysts are speculating that Virgin Australia will now form an alliance with Singapore Airlines to fast track Southeast Asia services.

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