Virgin Australia: A decade of international services.

Today marks ten years since Virgin Australia (Blue at the time) launched it’s first international flight, DJ007 between Christchurch and Brisbane on January 29, 2004.

Across the Tasman, Virgin’s competitive bullseye wasn’t locked squarely on the Qantas Group, it was also taking on a newly relaunched and reinvigorated Air New Zealand in its highest yielding market place. Pacific Blue grew quickly, leveraging the opportunity to develop reliable low-cost air services to the remote, developing islands of the Pacific, an area of the world that couldn’t support the high-cost operation of either national carrier.

Virgin’s long-haul ambitions came to fruition in 2009 – the worst time to launch an international airline, but it had little choice – with the launch of V Australia services to the US.

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Looking to the sky in 2014.

Our 2013 retrospective, and Airbus breaking with tradition on A350 MSN2 , inspired me to take a look at what this dynamic industry might have in-store for 2014:

A350 MSN2 the first test aircraft to be fitted with a full cabin interior in its new carbon fibre scheme. Image: Airbus SAS.

CASA Regulation
Some big regulatory changes will take place in 2014. In particular, CASA will need to guide the Australia’s airlines on the use of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) following changes to regulatory legislation by the FAA in the US and EASA in Europe. Currently Australian carriers are self regulating in this respect, but moving independently as a way to gain competitive advantage will only create headaches for crew in enforcing use on-board.

 

Image: Graham Cook

Domestic capacity
The war will continue until the end of the first half, bringing further revenue pressure to the Qantas and Virgin groups. Qantas has invested too much the public rhetoric behind in its strategy, to back away now would look like it was giving in. Not the best market image to present given its current financial position. Expect the Federal Government to make small changes to the level of single foreign ownership to the Qantas Sale Act.

 

 

 

Sydney Airport
The political future of Tony Abbott’s Government depends on their ability to deliver a courageous bipartisan policy decision. With a promise of a decision, a ‘government of no surprises’ will now need to deliver with a real commitment on Badgery’s Creek. This will come as a stage 1 single runway development, with no rail connection, because Abbott’s made it clear he doesn’t like trains. Also expect a change to the slot caps at Sydney Airport, starting with the 05:00-06:00am landing window.

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Carry-on’s top 13 of 2013.

2013 was exceptional proof that aviation is far from sclerotic. Beginning with continued fixation on the 787 as Boeing’s amour propre was tested by further incidents and a grounding. Eyes turned skyward for the equal greatest number of first flights in history. Rarely appreciating the continued challenging conditions airlines and the industry faces, politicians continued to provide opaque interference, compounding an already fractured dichotomy. There was awe as the world’s largest airline was replaced with with an even larger carrier, rosy profit turnarounds turned into sickening loss projections, and a renewed geopolitical rivalry in everything from aerospace manufacturing to air traffic rights. Here’s our 13 of 2013:

1. The 787.

The most exciting new aircraft in years became known for one thing in 2013: fire. In January the worldwide fleet was grounded – only the second aircraft since the DC-10 to be grounded in this way – following a series of electrical faults and battery fires caused by thermal runaway. The batteries were pulled out, boxed, and additional venting at a cost of approximately $500,000 per aircraft. Back in the air confidence has grown, the 787-9 is now flying and there has only been a small fiery issue relating to a locator beacon. Image: Richard Deakin.

 

2. CSeries flies.

110 years later Bombardier did it again for the very first time. This time with the first completely new narrow-body design since the A320 family.

 

3. ICAO’s emissions agreement.

ICAO’s member states reached a landmark multilateral agreement to develop a market-based measure that would reduce carbon emissions by 2020. The agreement will allow countries and airlines to operate under a single global standard rather than competing carbon regimes. Governments’ individual plans will be approved at the next assembly in 2016.

 

 

 

 

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The weekly rollerboard 10 November

The first of our weekly rollerboard wraps, neatly packing up a broader and atypical perspective on the industry.

Going to ground

Air India’s Boeing 787 fleet has been in a bit of a pickle over the last few weeks leading to the airline’s decision to preemptively ground one aircraft at a time from the end of November.

Ostensibly for software upgrades, each grounding will last for an undetermined length of time giving AI time to conduct more general repairs across its fleet of ten 787-8s. What is wrong outside the airline’s own 787 minimum equipment list (MEL) Air India hasn’t confirmed, but there has been multiple incidents including the loss of a mid-underwing-to-body fairing located on the belly of the aeroplane on the right side at Bangalore Airport, a cracked windshield grounding an aircraft in Melbourne, another grounding in Sydney due to undisclosed issues, and a braking issue on a flight from London to Delhi.

An unofficial Air India source says “Boeing has put out certain service bulletins which the airline will implement. This is not mandatory. The airline is doing it on its own to increase reliability of the aircraft.”

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Flying Art: Mendoowoorrji

Updated 10 November

Qantas 69th Boeing 737 'Mendoowoorrji'. Image: Qantas Airways.
Mendoowoorrji, 
Qantas’ 69th Boeing 737, and the fifth to be painted in an Aboriginal paint scheme “which captures the heart of the Kimberley region” has broken cover in Seattle.

The Boeing 737-800, registered VH-XZJ, was formally handed over in Seattle on Friday and will arrive in Sydney on Monday. Continue reading “Flying Art: Mendoowoorrji” »

Qantas Fleet Review: A different look at an all Boeing affair.

What are you looking at?

Qantas’ Sydney Jet Base hosted a Qantas Group fleet review on the weekend to showcase Jetstar’s new Boeing 787-8. An all Boeing affair, on display were 717 VH-NXG, 737-800 VH-XZB, 747-400 VH-OJM, 767-300ER VH-OGG, and 787-8 VH-VKA, with unprecedented access to explore the aircraft.

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A new reality: Jetstar’s first 787 arrives in Melbourne.

VH-VKA – operating as JQ7878 – touched down at Melbourne Airport at 13:13, five years and eight minutes behind schedule. It might be slightly late, but its an awesome achievement for the Qantas Group.

No longer a dream. Jetstar’s first 787.

787 test flight

Almost seven years after the order, and five long years of delays, Jetstar’s first Boeing 787-8 is here. Well, almost. It will be at 1305 AEST on Wednesday October 9.

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Qantas’ 14th 717 is on its way to Australia.

Qantas’ 14th Boeing 717 and first aircraft to be configured in a domestic two-class configuration is on its way to Australia. After technical acceptance of the aircraft in the US earlier this week, the aircraft is currently scheduled to arrive in Adelaide on Friday for final acceptance by Cobham.

Rescued from the Californian desert, the aircraft was previously operated by Midwest Airlines, and more recently Mexicana Click but has been in storage in the US since Mexicana went bankrupt in 2010. The delivery flight is being undertaken under the aircraft’s US registration N406BC, with the aircraft to be registered VH-YQS upon arrival in Australia.

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Results day 2: Virgin Australia

FY13 proved a much darker year for Virgin Australia.

The last of the regions’ airlines to post Financial Year ’13 results was Virgin Australia.  The Virgin Australia Group posted a statutory loss of $98 million dollars, on slight 2.5 per cent increase in revenue to $4.02 billion.

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