BY JAMES WILKINSON
Following the approval of their alliance by regulators, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand have revealed their new trans-Tasman network that will come into effect from November 2011.
A number of routes have seen an increase in traffic, while others have been consolidated, reflecting the challenging operating conditions across the Tasman.
Air New Zealand Group General Manager Australasia Airline Bruce Parton said under the new network, Air NZ will operate approximately 70% of the capacity and Virgin Australia (under the name Pacific Blue until the end of 2011) will have 30%, similar to the relative market share the airlines has before the alliance was formed.
Parton said the two airlines would also operate more than what was required by the alliance proposal approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and New Zealand Ministry of Transport (MOT).
“Since we received ACCC and MOT approval in December 2010, we have had dedicated teams from both airlines working closely together to optimise the network,” he said.
“The changes better match capacity to demand and in many instances this means a greater range of flight times by removing ‘wingtip flying’, as well as better connections to domestic Australia and domestic New Zealand flights.
“In addition, as indicated last year, we are actively looking at a couple of potential new trans-Tasman routes which we will likely make a decision on before the end of the year,” Parton said.
The new joint trans-Tasman network will see the adjustment of departure times on some routes, the transfer of capacity on other routes, along with the ability to change capacity depending on demand.
Schedule adjustments include:
-Brisbane-Wellington – previously both airlines had flights at similar times four days per week and no afternoon flights on some days. The new schedule will see Virgin Australia’s Pacific Blue operate a double daily service of morning and afternoon/evening flights;
-Brisbane-Christchurch – previously both airlines had flights at similar times four days per week. The new schedule will see the two airlines operate a combined double daily service of morning and afternoon/evening flights;
-Queenstown-Sydney – previously both airlines had flights at similar times on Tuesdays and Saturdays only. The new schedule will offer a flight five days a week in peak demand months; and
-Wellington-Sydney – previously both airlines had flights at similar times two days a week and no afternoon flights on some days. The new schedule will see Air New Zealand operating double daily services of morning and afternoon/evening flights;
Transfer of capacity will include:
-Pacific Blue will take up Air New Zealand services between Sydney/Melbourne and Dunedin, operating during the December and January peak. There is also improved connectivity via Christchurch to new double daily Christchurch-Brisbane, Christchurch-Sydney and Christchurch-Melbourne services; and
-Air New Zealand will assume all Wellington-Sydney flying and Pacific Blue will assume all Brisbane-Wellington flying.
Capacity changes will include:
-Capacity on Air New Zealand Auckland-Adelaide services will increase by 16%, with a daily service in the peak summer months, and Auckland-Perth services will increase to eight times per week (up 4%) over the summer peak;
-Air New Zealand will take over operation of the Auckland-Cairns route and frequency will be matched to projected demand;
-Total capacity into and out of Wellington is up 3.5%, with Melbourne-Wellington enjoying the largest increase of 10.5% and Brisbane-Wellington up 5%;
-Capacity on Christchurch markets will be reduced by around 14% to match the ongoing reduction in demand as a result of the recent earthquakes.
According to the airlines, the capacity to and from Auckland will remain unchanged, including Air New Zealand’s widebody services to the country’s largest city from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
Virgin Australia Group Executive Commercial Liz Savage said the alliance spans more than just routes, flight operations and ticket sales.
“We will provide reciprocal Velocity and Airpoints frequent flyer programmes and lounge access in Australia and New Zealand, as well as a coordinated offering of in-flight products and services, so that guests will receive similar first-rate service and benefits, no matter which airline they fly,” she said.
“Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand are also committed to growing the market, with plans to grow capacity further from March next year for the Northern Summer schedule.
“Regional areas in Australia and New Zealand will also see significant benefits from the alliance, as the two airlines will offer code share flights on each other’s domestic services as part of connecting Tasman journeys.
This will open up regional destinations in both countries like never before, making it easier for regional residents to get across the Tasman and for tourists to access regional destinations in Australia and New Zealand,” she said.
The alliance comes into effect under the Northern Winter 2011 schedule (November 2011 to March 2012) and tickets will be on sale from July 2011, when the codeshare commences across both airlines’ networks.