Three ways Virgin Australia intends to win against Air New Zealand

Three ways Virgin Australia intends to win against Air New Zealand

TALKING POINT | The messy break-up between Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand is not reading from the familiar script. None of this "we have come to a mutual decision, we still love each other and will always respect one another" stuff.

Instead, the airlines have gone from partners to pugilists and are now fighting not for custody of the children but for trans-Tasman travellers – especially business and premium leisure flyers.

Gone are the shared flights and lounges, along with coordination on schedules and pricing in an effort to paint common foe Qantas into a corner – albeit a big corner which represented almost 50% of the market.

Now each airline is free to go its own way, do its own thing and give its competitors a bloody nose in the process.

Beyond the usual competitive plays such as sharper pricing, here are three weapons with which Virgin Australia aims to win the trans-Tasman turf war against its onetime Kiwi paramour.

1. Business class on every flight

Every one of Virgin's trans-Tasman flights runs on a Boeing 737-800 jet fitted with business class. It's the same business class as the domestic Boeing 737s – eight wide recliners...

... but this offers greater consistency than Air New Zealand's mixed fleet, where some flights feature a Boeing 787 or Boeing 777 with a fully-flat business class...

... while flights on the Airbus A320 jets have economy seating from tip to tail, topping out with a 'Euro-business' premium option with extra legroom and an empty middle seat as its 'The Works' option.

2. Velocity points and status credits

This has always been one of the biggest advantages of the Virgin Australia partnership with Air New Zealand: the ability to earn frequent flyer points and status credits in Virgin's Velocity program when you're actually flying on an AirNZ jet.

Velocity earning is going to continue to be a drawcard for booking flights directly with Virgin after the split.

AirNZ's Airpoints scheme isn't highly regarded even by native New Zealanders, whose membership is more a matter of Stockholm Syndrome than anything else.

3. Inflight WiFi

As Virgin Australia continues to outfit its Boeing 737-800 fleet with inflight Internet, its WiFi rollout will also extend to New Zealand routes.

Air New Zealand is also planning WiFi for its new Airbus A321neo jets, but the size and ubiquity of Virgin's existing Boeing 737 fleet gives a headstart.

Virgin hasn't yet revealed when WiFi will stretch across the pond or how much it will charge.

Of course, none of this guarantees a victory for Virgin Australia (even if Virgin dares describe what such a victory looks like), and Air New Zealand has several strong cards in its own hand – including international-grade business class and premium economy on some flights, a strong regional network within New Zealand and a consistent network of quality lounges.

And there's always the risk that as Virgin Australia's trans-Tasman travellers rethink their plans, Qantas could pick up many new or once-strayed passengers.

Which airline is going to be your choice for future trans-Tasman flights, and why?

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.
 

36 comments

  • Joshb

    Joshb

    17 Apr, 2018 04:54 am

    QF would have to be in the box seat given the network, strength of FF and improved product offering with A330’s ex Syd and Mel.
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    BJVincent

  • kabe100

    kabe100

    17 Apr, 2018 07:48 pm

    A330s flights are generally slower than B777, let alone B789 flights. I noticed this a couple of times in both directions between SYD and AKL. It led me to analyse some flight tracking data of QF143 (A332) vs NZ104 (B772/B77W). It proves to me NZ104 is more than 20 minutes (as an average) shorter in last three weeks. Have a look at flightaware.com or flightradar.com...
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  • puppy79

    puppy79

    17 Apr, 2018 05:55 am

    VA for me if I go again.aircraft size on the sectors means nothing to me these days as I only fly Economy anyway.The only way you will get QF on a wide body across the TASMAN IS GETTING A FLIGHT ON A LATAM 787 CODESHARE or booking onto a flight operated by a 330.
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  • hutch

    hutch

    17 Apr, 2018 08:17 am

    Yes you are correct, the only way you will get QF on a widebody, is by flying a widebody.
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  • aklrunway

    aklrunway

    17 Apr, 2018 08:31 am

    QF operate A330s from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Auckland.
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  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    17 Apr, 2018 06:56 am

    The QF 332 flights only go to AKL. Bad luck if you're going/coming anywhere to/from the rest of NZ. Same deal for NZ 772/773: AKL only. You get to connect other ports in NZ or JQ economy, up to 2 hours for say ZQN. I'm no great fan of the QF and VA recliners in J on the 738's, but at least you get a direct flight, decent legroom and a seat wide enough for some comfort. I'll stick with that until NZ gets the message about catering for premium customers outside AKL. BTW: I dislike the "coffin class" J on the NZ 772/773 anyway, even for trans-Tasman.
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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    17 Apr, 2018 09:59 am

    I agree with you in regards to the 'coffins' in J on Air NZ 777/787s.

    Whilst most business travelers from both sides of the ditch don't like them, leisure travelers according to Air NZ, like them. Air NZ has said, most of the travelers in J are leisure and the company is not actively promoting the Business Premier product to business travelers but providing an 'enhance premium' travel experience. Its up to individual how to interrupt what Air NZ means.

    To me, Business Premier is Premium Economy with a lay flat bed.
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  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    17 Apr, 2018 06:58 am

    Just to clarify: I do understand that wide body aircraft cannot get into places like ZQN, but they certainly can in WLG and CHC.
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  • k  lane

    londoner

    17 Apr, 2018 07:54 am

    Virgin business class trans tasman is woeful, Air NZ any day
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  • mara

    mara

    17 Apr, 2018 08:07 am

    The AirNZ website is now bringing up Qantas flights for the OZ domestic legs. So you have to book Virgin flight separately. I hope Virgin have a status match lined up in this custody battle.
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  • henrus

    henrus

    17 Apr, 2018 08:48 am

    I think you'll find this way always the case.

    Ports like Alice Springs and Bundaberg always used a QF connection on to Air NZ (even during the Virgin tie up)

    If you search from say Townsville or Darwin to Auckland you'll see no flights appear yet. Air NZ has announced that those routes will continue to use Virgin flight but they'll have a VA code instead (and at this stage it's unclear if perks will continue).
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  • sgb

    sgb

    17 Apr, 2018 08:27 am

    Melbourne Queenstown Business is a winner.
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  • Graham BLAMEX

    BLAMEX

    17 Apr, 2018 08:53 am

    Whilst QF retain the A330 they are the clear winner. Winner a superior J product and 2 x 4 x 2 in Y class they will be the winner. One day when they update the lounges in NZ this will be yet another leap over VA. Until VA introduce a better J class product and do something with the lounges (the domestic ones are like a school canteen) QF will win all the time.
    Member who gave thanks

    Dr Travel

  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    17 Apr, 2018 09:47 am

    Hi David - Could you please clarify what you meant - "AirNZ's Airpoints scheme isn't highly regarded even by native New Zealanders, whose membership is more a matter of Stockholm Syndrome than anything else."

    I prefer to have a '1AP = NZ$1' earn type FF as oppose to the current points schemes that is offered by QF and VA FF schemes.
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  • xtfer

    xtfer

    17 Apr, 2018 03:09 pm

    The redemption rates are poor. Possibly the worst in the Star Alliance stable and way below VA.
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  • henrus

    henrus

    17 Apr, 2018 08:38 pm

    Each to their own but as others have mentioned the redemption rates are poor.

    I fly Brisbane to Christchurch a lot so I'll use that as an example.

    In my case, I don't travel with a checked bag so I'll always buy the seat only. When booked on a seat return ticket it typically earns between 2 and 10 AP$ (and for the sake of this post I'll run with 6AP$ as it's halfway and ~40 status credits return). This same ticket can also earn 1552 miles on United or Virgin Australia (with 40 status credits earned on VA)


    When it comes to a oneway redemption from Brisbane to Christchurch is
    17500 miles on United (12 return trip required to reach this)
    17800 miles on Virgin (12 return trip required to reach this
    and
    on average AP$186 on Air NZ (31 return trips required to reach this)
    taxes are added on with all three options

    When it comes to Gold status (Air NZ is not as bad as United by alot worse then Virgin)
    50000 miles on United (33 return trips required)
    500 status credits on Virgin (13 return trips required)
    900 staus credits on Air NZ (23 return trips required)

    This is the case for a lot of frequent trans tasman travelers I know. Virgin Gold status provides perks on both Air NZ domestically and trans tasman whilst being half as easy to obtain. This has kinda upset some New Zealanders as the "Aussies" get it half as easy with the same perks whilst filling up their lounges in the process.

    There are some cases where NZ provides more points and status credits and that tends to be long haul business class. Often a business class return Australia to London via Auckland and LA can net gold in a single trip, however, the price can often be double what other star alliance airlines offer.

    I guess it depends on your travels and who you'll fly. On Air NZ metal often it makes sense to credit to Airpoints however you'll often hear people complain about the earn and burn rates which will most likely come back to burn you.
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  • StuParr

    StuParr

    18 Apr, 2018 07:57 am

    Thanks Henrus, I’m agnostic when it comes to reward flights, as I don’t use them much.

    As I fly on Air NZ metal quite a bit I find Airpoints quite an easy way to retain Star Gold whilst using VA flights and SQ for VA Plat retention.

    Is there a better Star program that I should consider? Or given my flights are as above a mix of Velocity and Airpoints is the optimum. With all these changes I am working through the options.

    No member give thanks

  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    17 Apr, 2018 10:02 am

    Will VA continue to put J pax and tier Velocity into NZ lounges? Sounds like they don't want to: but if not, where? Wonder when we'll hear?
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  • Jason Masters

    JPMasters

    17 Apr, 2018 10:19 am

    Key strategy to be explained is lounge access on both sides.
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  • MarkJohnSon

    MarkJohnSon
    Banned

    17 Apr, 2018 10:21 am

    One thing missing from this list: access to quality lounges in Australia, and access to any lounge across the ditch.

    Based on the divorce proceedings so far, it seems highly unlikely AirNZ and VA will cut a deal on lounge access.

    If that turns out to be true, what business traveller would ever consider flying with VA?
    No member give thanks

  • Simon Coveney

    Covvers

    18 Apr, 2018 02:46 pm

    As people who follow my comments on this website well know, I am no fan of VA.

    However, I must disagree with you on this issue Mark. A business traveller would have a very good reason for considering flying with VA where the option is between an ANZ A320, with no proper J class or a VA 738 with the usual domestic J class recliners.

    As much as I like ANZ, I simply wouldn't consider flying them on a route on which they were using an A320. Spending three or four hours in a Y-class seat on a veritable misery tube is, to me, unacceptable.
    Member who gave thanks

    lfwmvnz

  • Philip Devlin

    Dr Travel

    17 Apr, 2018 01:13 pm

    QF A330 double daily to SYD and MEL and daily to BNE ex AKL are the best Tasman product in operation hands down.
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  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    17 Apr, 2018 01:44 pm

    I would argue that CI's A350 is better.
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  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    17 Apr, 2018 02:23 pm

    I even quite liked CI a333: preferred to any of VA, QF or NZ. in J.
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  • xtfer

    xtfer

    17 Apr, 2018 03:10 pm

    LATAMs 787 business, despite being 2-2-2, is, IMHO, better on that short leg than a QF A330.
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    good67

  • hutch

    hutch

    17 Apr, 2018 03:22 pm

    Not the greatest departure time from AKL if I recall correctly
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  • eminere

    eminere

    17 Apr, 2018 11:03 pm

    But not too bad in the SYD-AKL direction.
    No member give thanks

  • Simon Coveney

    Covvers

    18 Apr, 2018 02:42 pm

    I don't agree with this statement at all. To the extent that the QF A330s do not have the updated interior and J seat, I would accept that the hard product on the LATAM 789 is superior. It is, however, worse on every other measure, whether it be service (woeful on LATAM) or food.

    I would take QF service, food, consistency and safety over the shambolic mess than is LATAM any day of the week and twice on Fridays.
    No member give thanks

  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    17 Apr, 2018 02:37 pm

    It sounds like Kramer versus Kramer. They’ll need Child Protection Services and Family Law Court to settle the pathetic asset mix!
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  • Andrew

    andyf

    18 Apr, 2018 12:17 am

    Worth noting that VA's Pacific Island flights from Auckland already use the Strata contract lounge rather than the NZ Koru lounge.
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  • sagidec

    sagidec

    18 Apr, 2018 09:32 am

    It's great to see market shake ups. Forces the players to up their game and not stay content!
    Member who gave thanks

    amitchell

  • Mitchell Dennis

    Mitchd31

    18 Apr, 2018 12:17 pm

    ANZ airpoints is the worst loyalty programme I think any airline offers so va any day , also great that VA are uping the game with improved food options etc.
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  • Simon Coveney

    Covvers

    18 Apr, 2018 02:52 pm

    Mitch, on what basis do you say that VA is "...uping (sic) the game with improved food options..."?

    There is certainly nothing in the article to that effect.
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  • Matthew Thomas

    Empty

    18 Apr, 2018 03:09 pm

    A little birdy told me that VA is looking to build a domestic network in NZ - I would assume this would only be to the larger ports but if they can replicate what they have built in AU they will have a solid offering - Still, I will miss the good status earn on ANZ regional flights..
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    18 Apr, 2018 03:15 pm

    @Mitchd31 your correct, the onboard food has improved immensely over the last 3 months. Flew SYD-BNE a few days ago and the food suited the 1hr late afternoon flight perfectly.
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  • Gary  Bryant

    good67

    21 Apr, 2018 08:51 am

    I used to book and enjoy Emirates A380 service Melb-Auk on a Q ticket
    Now more than happy to fly
    Qantas A330 200
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12 Dec, 2018 05:40 am

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