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Virgin Australia: A330-only 'Coast to Coast' flights by Christmas

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, Airbus A330, Virgin Australia

The pitched battle for Australia’s business travellers is seeing both Qantas and Virgin Australia rolling out the big gun of their domestic fleets, the Airbus A330.

Although many airlines use the A330 for medium-range international trips, it’s well suited to the roughly five hour cross-country journey between Australia’s eastern capitals and Perth.

The A330 carries close to 300 passengers – almost 100 more than the smaller Boeing 737-800s which tend to be the domestic workhorse of Qantas and Virgin.

This also means more business class seats than the 737 – and these seats can be more akin to international-grade seats with extra leg room, a deeper recline and more comfortable design, all of which are major factors in making the trans-continental trek.

Putting more seats on the market is in turn leading to lower fares, with business class fares now hitting their lowest point in almost a decade.

Here’s what the competing airlines have planned for their A330s. 

Virgin Australia

Virgin’s fifth A330, and the third to arrive shiny and new from the Airbus factory at Toulouse, took to the skies late last month.

Its first assignment is to fill in for each of the airline’s first two A330s as they’re sent off for scheduled ‘heavy maintenance’ inspections.

This will afford business class passengers a greater chance of sampling Virgin’s new A330 lie-flat business class seats, as the original A330s – which were bought 'pre-loved' from Emirates to debut on the Sydney-Perth Coast to Coast service – are fitted with more modest recliners.

However, a Virgin Australia spokeswoman confirmed to Australian Business Traveller this morning that despite speculation “we are definitely not refitting the original A330s to install the new business class seats" during their maintenance downtime.

When the second pre-loved A330 arrives back from inspection later this year Virgin will have one extra A330 in its fleet, while a sixth will arrive in the first half of 2013.

The airline has not yet revealed if these A330s will be used to add flights for existing A330 city pairs or open new A330 routes, although Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has hinted they could even appear on international flights to selected regional destinations.

“We've got the flexibility of putting it domestically or internationally depending how the market is, depending on where our needs are” Borghetti says.


The Red Roo will add 24 A330s onto its Melbourne-Perth service from October 15, replacing flights currently operated by Boeing 767 aircraft.

This will boost the tally from 44 weekly A330 flights to 68, many of which will be in Qantas’ international configuration with Skybed seats and a generous 60 inches of pitch in business class plus on-demand inflight entertainment from tip to tail.

Earlier this month Qantas wheeled out the biggest of its big guns, the mighty Boeing 747, for daily flights between Sydney and Perth.

The jumbo is assigned to the daily QF581/582 service. QF581 leaves Sydney at 10.10am for arrival into Perth at 1.15pm, then turns around to become the QF582 flight out of Perth at 2.35pm, landing in Sydney at 8.40pm.

Once the backbone of Qantas' international fleet, the 747's appearance on a domestic route represents another parry in the airlines' ongoing stoush.

Qantas is determined to defend its own oft-quoted 'line in the sand' of 65% market share while Virgin Australia edges closer to the other side of that same line as the challenger continues to woo lucrative corporate travellers.

Keep up to date with the latest news for business travellers and frequent flyers: follow @AusBT on Twitter.


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 12/7/12 by tronixstuff

For the curious or those who want a change of aircraft, Virgin's A330s do a MEL-SYD and vv on weekday mornings (DJ813 and 830). 

2 on 12/7/12 by AusFlyer

I do like the 747 when travelling to PER and Qantas offering them again has me booking on it for my upcoming trips!

3 on 12/7/12 by Darren

Having travelled in Business Class to/from Perth on the ex Emirates A330's, it is very dissapointing to hear that they are not retro-fitting these aircraft with the new Business Class and AVOD.  The service on board was outstanding, however the seats and inflight entertainment is very dated.  You should be able to view 2 movies between the East Coast and Perth, however with the old fashioned system they have, you only really get to see 1 movie with a lot of waiting time between the next cycle.  I will get to fly the new bird in Business Class this Sunday and I look forward to the comparison.  However if you are travelling on one of the old planes, probably a good idea to download a movie on iTunes to your iPad/Tablet before you fly.

1 on 12/7/12 by David

Do drop back and share your thoughts on Virgin's new A330, DGP

4 on 12/7/12 by snoopy7787

Adelaide gets them three times a week so If you don't mind doing an International Flight on a domestic sector get the QF81 OUT OF SYDNEY.

5 on 13/7/12 by DK

Surely they can put one on the route from SYD-HNL rite???

1 on 13/7/12 by here2go

Am hoping that QF puts away the aircraft-grade gaffer tape and replaces the 767s going to DRW from BNE and SYD with A330s.

2 on 15/7/12 by snoopy7787

I hope so in response to DK.I flew way back in 1989 SYD-HNL going through to Canada on a School Exchange and got these old 747-200's.This of course was when almost all carriers except QF AND UA with their 744's all stopped in Honolulu enroute to LAX,SFO and YVR.

6 on 15/7/12 by Darren

I just flew from Perth to Sydney today in Business Class on one of the new Virgin Australia A330 aircraft. The hard product is very good and much better than their ex Emirates A330 aircraft.  Once again the service was outstanding. They are very service oriented, have a natural grace and style and clearly have a very good training process going on.  The service standards are leaps and bounds ahead of what I have experienced with Qantas over the last couple of years and with this new product, Qantas need to wake up and drop the arrogance.

1 on 16/7/12 by tronixstuff

Absoltely. The crew are proud of their new aircraft and it shows in the service. Even in lowly Y last week the service was genuinely friendly and nothing was a problem. Also the new 'red' IFE was reasonably entertaining. Once again well done Virgin. 

7 on 26/7/12 by aero-seat

News from Virgin Australia: If the A330s run the route in the future, here's how the timetable of services will look:

For flights Sydney to Perth

There are currently 3 A330 flights (one in the morning and two in the afternoon) and two services operated by 737s. If the A330s take over the route, expect 4/5 services a day depending on the day.

For flights Melbourne to Perth

On the route currently they have 2 A330s (both in the afternoon) and 3 services using 737s. When the widebody aircraft is used, this route will have 4 services a day.

1 on 26/7/12 by Al

Hey Aero-seat, I don't think you mean that is is actually "news from Virgin Australia", isn't this just your speculation on how an all-A330 schedule might look? As far as I know Virgin have not commented at all on new services for the A330 on these routes.

8 on 27/7/12 by tronixstuff

From Virgin facebook - new A330 VH-XFE has just arrived. Set a non-stop record (empty) from Toulouse to Melbourne in 20 hours and 36 minutes, and covered 17,879 km (9,653 nautical miles). 


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