The Qantas vs Virgin Australia fight for business travellers is hotting up.
The Red Roo is putting on bigger Boeing 747 and Airbus A330 planes from Sydney and Melbourne to Perth, more 'resources' flights from Brisbane and extra Jetstar services -- plus there's a promise of more to come for Qantas Frequent Flyers.
Qantas is getting out the big guns in response to Virgin Australia's latest transcontinental push with new seats and planes, and the winner in this fight will be the business traveller.
"A range of changes, including aircraft upgrades and additional frequencies, will be made to provide greater choice and convenience for customers," Qantas said in a statement today.
CEO Alan Joyce reiterates that he wants to win passengers for Qantas: "We know that network and frequency are key to customer satisfaction and the changes we are announcing today mean we will offer even better service in both areas."
What does that mean for you? While Qantas says "Further details about routes and timing will be announced in due course," four key changes are big wins for business travellers.
Sydney-Perth flights upgraded to Boeing 747s
Qantas' Boeing 747 jets are returning to the Sydney-Perth route. They'd been quietly withdrawn recently after a reintroduction in May 2011 when Virgin Australia bought its first batch of Airbus A330 planes for the Sydney-Perth run.
The move to put these big birds and their business class seats on the longer transcontinental runs comes as Virgin Australia unveils new business class seats for its new A330s that will be jetting to and from Perth.
If you're on one of the two-class (business + economy) Boeing 747s to Perth, don't miss our guide to picking the very best seats on the plane. And if it's not that particular type of jumbo, we've got you covered with a full range of guides to picking the best seats on Qantas (and other airlines).
Melbourne-Perth flights get Airbus A330s -- and Skybeds
Business travellers will see more comfortable planes -- with a promise of significantly better business class seats -- when Airbus A330 planes are added to the Melbourne-Perth route.
Since Qantas has several different business classes on the A330, though, the airline is unable to guarantee whether they'll be be the Jetstar-style recliners or the international business class first generation angled-flat Skybed for any particular flight.
We outline the difference between the Jetstar-style recliners (which are more like international premium economy) and the proper business class angled-flat Skybeds in our guide to picking the best seats in business on Qantas' A330s.
This time, Qantas is saying that it will "give more customers access to the award-winning Skybed product in business class", so things are looking up, but Australian Business Traveller is given to stand that the recliner-or-Skybed issue is not yet finalised.
Again, it seems that Qantas is parrying Virgin's thrust into the business travel market with more of the good seats to Perth.
More jet flights (and more seats) in Queensland
QantasLink will also boost capacity around Queensland, and especially on the Brisbane-Emerald route, where Fokker F100 jets operated by Alliance (also used by Virgin Australia) will be added to the Q400 turboprops.
“We’ve listened to our customers who want access to more seats at peak times. The introduction of jet aircraft on Emerald, the repositioning of Q400 aircraft and the recent launch of additional B717s on key Queensland markets will allow QantasLink to meet customer demand," Qantaslink CEO Narendra Kumar said.
Four more flights weekly will be added to the Brisbane-Roma route, which adds up to a total of over 290 extra seats a week.
Brisbane-Bundaberg will also see extra seats: 392 more every week.
Newcastle, Hervey Bay and Biloela are also scheduled for some as-yet-undetailed extra seats.
More flights for Jetstar too
Qantas also says that "Jetstar will increase capacity in its key leisure markets." Business travellers who happen to live or work in those primarily leisure destinations will therefore see some additional service there.
No details of those extra flights have yet been announced.
Next A380s delayed up to four years
The shakeup doesn't come without a price for business travellers who like the benefits of flying on the Airbus A380: Qantas is putting off delivery of two A380s that were previously scheduled to arrive in early 2013, and the superjumbos will now arrive in 2016/17.
That's just before Qantas' final six A380s arrive in 2018/2019.
More to come for Qantas Frequent Flyers
And there sounds like there's more to come for business travellers and frequent flyers: "Our priorities remain to build on our strong domestic business, enhance Qantas Frequent Flyer, turn around Qantas International and grow Jetstar in Asia," CEO Alan Joyce promised.
Let's hope those are proper improvements rather than the dreaded "we're taking something away and calling it an enhancement" that frequent flyers will find so familiar.
We'll keep you updated on news from Qantas and the rest of the business travel world, both here and on Twitter. Follow us for the very latest: we're @AusBT.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.