Virgin Australia’s has formally exited voluntary administration under new owner Bain Capital and unveiled initial details about its future direction as a ‘mid-market’ airline.
On her official first day as new CEO and Managing Director, Jayne Hrdlicka has today released a plan for the airline to “compete in its mid-market heartland” for guests who want a “more premium experience at an affordable and competitive price.”
While many details remain unclear, the plan’s major elements include:
- continuing to offer Economy, Economy X and Business Class seating, but with cheaper fares and a reshaped business class offering
- a smaller network of lounges, to open as travel demand resumes, with the Brisbane Lounge re-opening today
- a ‘new-look’ Virgin Australia Lounge, which will open in Adelaide in early 2021 and roll out across the lounge network over time
- new self-service and assisted check-in and baggage drop facilities at airports
- an updated and more integrated Virgin Australia app
- a “comprehensive network” of domestic and regional destinations.
The airline will ditch complimentary snacks and meals in economy, but will continue to offer free tea, coffee and water. The airline will launch a buy onboard food and drinks menu early next year.
In-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment remain under review, with more details to be announced in 2021.
Virgin Australia will continue to offer Economy-X seating, which provides extra leg room and a dedicated overhead luggage compartment, saying this is a popular upgrade purchase for Economy customers.
Virgin Australia Economy X
The airline will retain Business Class seats but the offering as a whole is under review, with more details on what customers can expect due to be revealed next year.
As government-imposed travel restrictions ease and travel demand resumes, Virgin Australia will re-open a smaller network of domestic lounges at airports where high volumes of frequent flyers travel. These include:
- Brisbane (reopening today)
- Gold Coast
The Darwin, Cairns and Mackay lounges will close, while the Canberra lounge remains under review.
Initially, lounges will offer guests an interim food and beverage menu, which will be reviewed as the lounge network gradually re-opens and passenger volumes return. The offering will adhere to COVID-safe protocols and will include fresh and pre-made food, including sweet and savoury snacks, sandwiches and fruit, along with barista-made coffee, juices, wine and beer.
The recently built Adelaide Lounge will open in the first quarter of 2021. The lounge is a prototype of the “Virgin Australia Lounge of the future” with a new design that will roll out across the network over time. The airline hasn’t provided any further details.
Virgin Australia’s Premium Entry feature will remain.
Lounge memberships that expired during the COVID-19 period will be extended for 12 months from the original expiry date.
New self-service and assisted check-in facilities will open across major airports by December 2021, simplifying the airport experience and leveraging new technology.
The hybrid check-in facilities, which currently feature in Melbourne and Perth, will allow Virgin Australia to streamline customer flow through the airports.
The facilities, a mix of kiosks and assisted check-in counters, mean Guest Services agents can come out from behind a desk and provide a more concierge-style service for passengers.
Velocity Frequent Flyer
The airline says there will be no material changes to its loyalty program, and its 10 million members will continue to earn and redeem Velocity Points through a host of airline and non-airline partners.
Velocity granted a 12-month status extension earlier this year, and there has been no change to the number of points needed to redeem rewards.
The program will announce a number of “significant” new partnerships in 2021, giving members more opportunity to earn points on every day spend.
Speaking at Brisbane Airport today, Ms Hrdlicka said Virgin Australia exits voluntary administration “with a renewed sense of who we are and who we are here to serve.”
“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. We will also continue to deliver our award-winning service, strong network of destinations, an award-winning frequent flyer program and a safe and reliable operation.”
“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. We will continue to evolve our offering for our customers based on data and feedback, but the Virgin Australia experience millions of travellers know and love is here to stay.”
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