Virgin Australia axes Melbourne-Los Angeles, goes daily Brisbane-LAX

Virgin Australia axes Melbourne-Los Angeles, goes daily Brisbane-LAX

Virgin Australia will axe its flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles but ramp up the Brisbane-USA route to a daily service.

The last flight from Melbourne to LAX will run on 25 October 2014, with Brisbane stepping up from four flights a week to daily from 26 October 2014 on the airline's long-range Boeing 777 jet.

"The changes announced today are a result of extensive market analysis" said Virgin Australia’s Chief Commercial Officer Judith Crompton.

Virgin will shutter its Melbourne-Los Angeles flights only three days before United Airlines begins a direct Melbourne-Los Angeles service on its new Boeing 787-9 on October 28.

That flight on the newer, quieter and jetlag-busting Dreamliner will begin six days a week but shift to a daily frequency from March 2015.

Read: United Airlines to launch Boeing 787-9 on Melbourne-Los Angeles

For its part Qantas will add a second flight between Melbourne and Los Angeles on selected days over the December-January period to cope with seasonal demand, with a Boeing 747 supplementing the daily Airbus 380 service.

Increasingly sharp competition is not the only factor in Virgin's decision – the airline's lack of a crew base in Melbourne has contributed to higher operational costs on this route.

By comparison, Brisbane is the airline's operational HQ and sees it facing only a single daily Qantas service to Los Angeles, while Virgin's move to daily BNE-LAX flights is expected to boost bookings among business travellers who value the daily frequency.

Although there has been some speculation that US carrier and Virgin Australia partner Delta Air Lines could begin flying the Melbourne-Los Angeles route, a spokeswoman for Delta told Australian Business Traveller "we do not have a current plan to launch new service between Melbourne and Los Angeles."

Virgin says there will also be "a minor change to the departure time of Sydney to Los Angeles flights to allow an earlier arrival into Los Angeles, creating a more convenient schedule for corporate and leisure travellers."

As of 26 October the Sydney-Los Angeles VA1 flight will leave at 11.40am compared to the current 12.05pm schedule, which sees touchdown at LAX at 7.30am the same day.

The return hop on VA2 will now leave Los Angeles at 10.50pm instead of 9.15pm, reaching Sydney at 7.50am two days later.

Virgin says that travellers who have already booked on the VA23/VA24 Melbourne to Los Angeles service for travel on or after 26 October 2014 "will be contacted by their travel provider to discuss alternative options".

“Those travelling from Melbourne will still be able to travel to Los Angeles on one ticket with through-checked baggage, connecting through Sydney or Brisbane, and we are committed to providing competitive fares on these routes" the airline promises.

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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.
 

43 comments

  • Jono

    Jono

    23 Jul, 2014 01:37 pm

    So does this mean that now the only VA international destinations that leave direct from MEL are Aub Dhabi and Singapore?

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  • Lee Wills

    lee

    23 Jul, 2014 01:41 pm

    I don't think they've ever flown to Singapore?

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  • tmsmile

    tmsmile

    23 Jul, 2014 01:42 pm

    VA Don't fly to Singapore...

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  • madge

    madge

    23 Jul, 2014 01:43 pm

    Actually neither of these are on VA metal. VA international from MEL amounts to DPS, NAN, AKL & CHC.

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  • Jono

    Jono

    23 Jul, 2014 01:49 pm

    Ah, I thought their virtual gloabal network meant flights to the closest cities that would allow you to hook up with their partners. Los Angeles (Delta) Singapore (SQ) Abu Dhabi (EY) and Auckland (NZ).

    I still feel a little shaffted that now if I wanna go one stop to NYC it'll be QF or CX. Unless UA enter this millenium and add TV's to their economy seats. (Which I think was the plan for the 787's)

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  • am

    am

    23 Jul, 2014 02:24 pm

    UA is entering the market this millenium, just three days after VA pulls out (as noted in the article and covered extensively by this website in the past).

    Their services to Sydney (and the current tag to Melbourne) are now flown with 777s that have seat-back entertainment throughout, while the 787s that they will use on the nonstop Melbourne flights later this year will also be fitted with PTVs. 

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  • nix584

    nix584

    23 Jul, 2014 03:02 pm

    Or you could go JQ/JL, EK, EY, QR, AI, MU, CA, CZ,

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  • Hugo

    Hugo

    23 Jul, 2014 01:46 pm

    On one hand, it's a shame for me as a VA-flying Melburnite. On the other hand, I really don't think that flights leaving on odd combinations of days are a good idea. 

    I wish they'd just buy a couple more planes so they could do daily services from all three cities. 

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  • lind26

    lind26

    25 Jul, 2014 07:06 pm

    I agree

    Their Melbourne service has just never been on the right days for me when I wanted to travel

    It's all or nothing

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  • Kogglogs

    Kogglogs

    23 Jul, 2014 03:09 pm

    I guess one up-shot of now having to rout via SYD or BNE for flights MEL-LAX, is that you'll earn additional SCs on the MEL-SYD or MEL-BNE segment. Flying J and via SYD, it's an extra 80 SCs return. Gotta be happy with that ;)

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  • Hugo

    Hugo

    23 Jul, 2014 03:56 pm

    The best move would be going via BNE since MEL-BNE gets you more SCs than MEL-SYD, and BNE-LAX the same as SYD-LAX. I think.

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  • Kogglogs

    Kogglogs

    23 Jul, 2014 04:13 pm

    Correct! Wonder what airport taxes, levies etc are like in/out of BNE vs. in/out of MEL?

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  • Dot

    Dot

    23 Jul, 2014 03:14 pm

    While I don't have access to the numbers that VA are basing their decision on, I am surprised at them dropping MEL-LAX. With VA's move towards more of a business customer focus, as Australia's second largest city, Melbourne would have (IMO) many more business customers than BNE ever would have.  To my way of thinking, BNE wold be a better tourism port, while MEL would be a better business port.

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  • Kogglogs

    Kogglogs

    23 Jul, 2014 03:18 pm

    But if you can get the price point for flights LAX-BNE-MEL or LAX-SYD-MEL right and just as financially competitive as the direct QF or UA flights, then you're also not just maintaining traffic to MEL, but simultaneously creating additional traffic to BNE and SYD. Two birds with one stone, so to speak.

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  • Dot

    Dot

    23 Jul, 2014 04:11 pm

    It's not just about price though. As  MEL based business person, I would much rather fly direct to the US rather than have the hassles of transferring through SYD or BNE (especially where both transfers require bus rides) - having to transfer also adds a significant amount of time to my journey time. Don't forget about the same inconvenience on the return journey too.

    Obviously if you're chasing points/status, it's a different question and you may not have been flying direct currently and the direct flights are of no interest anyway - why fly direct when you can connect?

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  • Kogglogs

    Kogglogs

    23 Jul, 2014 04:19 pm

    I completely understand - and where possible (and aren't in a 'chasing status credit' mood, which sometimes I do), I do fly direct. Less fatigue, more time at home - hooray! But, there are more than just business travellers on these flights - and my point was more in relation to holiday traffic (I guess some business traffic too, but to a lesser extent) By routing via SYD or BNE, VA are maintaining traffic to MEL, but simultaneously creating additional traffic to BNE and SYD which in turn creates opportunity for stop overs etc. I'm sure Tourism QLD are applauding the move (if they weren't already involved in the decision)

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  • watson374

    watson374

    23 Jul, 2014 10:31 pm

    I would argue that axing MEL-LAX makes a lot of sense. There several good reasons for VA to do this:

    1. Less competition. MEL will see UA introduce a daily nonstop, so they will be competing with both UA and QF (which will have an additional flight for the peak periods). I think they can see that MEL-LAX will be a slaughterhouse as they are the weakest player, especially with less-than-daily service. SYD is bigger, and safer with friendly DL in the game. In contrast, BNE has just one competitor, and they are not running more than single-daily.
    2. Eliminates their odd less-than-daily schedule that was necessary to run all three LAX services plus AUH with just five 77Ws. With a daily BNE-LAX and SYD-LAX, they're much more attractive.
    3. If the leisure crowd is unfazed by connections, then as Kogglogs has pointed out it stimulates the remaining flights.
    4. They have more infrastructure in BNE.

    It just makes so much more sense.

    PS: Random thought just occured to me. What's stopping VA from offering a 'direct' MEL-BNE-LAX-BNE-MEL using a 737 to run the MEL 'tag', feeding the 77W and offering one-stop service but having the guest clear CIQ in MEL, giving near-seamless transit in BNE?

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  • Robert Eden

    reno
    Banned

    24 Jul, 2014 09:57 am

    This is an outstanding move by Virgin.I am shore the pin stripes in the corperate office gave it plenty of thought.The MEL/LAX sector suffers from over capacity ..big time.You have UA as a new entrant with daily service as do QF.Delta will soon offer daily service and they a partner wth Virgin.

    Flying out of BNE will provide higher yeild for Virgin and another option to QF who provide a daily service but on an aging 747 which is allways full,with ..no first class unless you wase time in the Sydney lounge while connecting to may be an A380 fly out of Sydney.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    25 Jul, 2014 04:26 pm

    Since when has DL announced they're coming to MEL? They specifically said they aren't, in this very article no less.

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  • Longreach

    Longreach

    25 Jul, 2014 05:33 pm

    Now there's an arrogant statement if ever one was written.

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  • ILIKEPLANES101

    ILIKEPLANES101

    23 Jul, 2014 04:56 pm

    Its certainly better to fly MEL-SYD/BNE-LAX than BNE-MEL/SYD-LAX and its not aa if MEL-LAX is short of capacity either

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  • Kai Robotham

    Travellingmum

    23 Jul, 2014 04:57 pm

    Does anyone know if you do the MEL-BNE-LAX if you need to clear customs in BNE?  This is definitely a massive downside in the current MEL-SYD-LAX arrangement.    

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  • bruce

    atfdio

    23 Jul, 2014 05:15 pm

    Why would va continue its lax to mel service three days per week? Where would these 777's go? Confused?

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  • petrhsr

    petrhsr

    23 Jul, 2014 05:37 pm

    Will involve flying MEL-BNE, getting on the train from the domestic to the international terminal, clearing immigration and another security screening, then off to LAX.

     

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  • nix584

    nix584

    24 Jul, 2014 11:31 am

    Yes you would, and you'd have to in SYD as well. Fly to BNE, catch the bus/train/taxi to the International terminal, head down to security & customs, fly to LAX. You shouldn't have to collect luggage in BNE though.

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  • petrhsr

    petrhsr

    23 Jul, 2014 05:40 pm

    I'd like to think that VA is discontinuing MEL-LAX because UA is starting it, and they don't want to compete with them because VA are planning to join *A.

    Hah!  I wish...

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  • bruce

    atfdio

    23 Jul, 2014 05:56 pm

    Is Ua going to start lax to mel in oct?

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  • hutch

    hutch

    23 Jul, 2014 10:15 pm

    Paragraph 4

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  • watson374

    watson374

    23 Jul, 2014 10:18 pm

    Oh, I'm sure it's got everything to do with UA starting it, but I don't think it's got anything to do with VA joining *A.

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  • Propofol88

    Propofol88

    23 Jul, 2014 11:02 pm

    How wonderful it'd be if VA would join *A! Likelihood though?

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  • watson374

    watson374

    23 Jul, 2014 11:12 pm

    Slimmer than a Jetstar seat back.

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  • Arcanum

    Arcanum

    25 Jul, 2014 01:25 am

    LOL.  Great line!

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  • Lachlan Ford

    IflyQF

    24 Jul, 2014 07:28 am

    UA's 787 wil be a great way to fly. But qantas A380 and 744 can't be beaten. UA's economy food is unedible and their staff are so rude. 

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  • petrhsr

    petrhsr

    24 Jul, 2014 08:32 am

    UA have, unfortunately, chosen a craptacular hard product for their 789 biz cabin, which won't win-over any Qantas Skybed 2 fans.  I'm over the 744, though.  Totally.  A superceded type that QF need to replace with the 777-9 as soon as it starts rolling off the line.

    I have always found that interactions with UA cabin crew are what you make them, but YMMV.

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  • Arcanum

    Arcanum

    25 Jul, 2014 01:35 am

    Air Canada's rumoured to be starting MEL and/or BNE once enough 787s are delivered.  That'll eventually be the best hard product across the Pacific since their 787s have the same reverse herringbone seat as Cathay's long-haul fleet.

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  • Martin  Slobodnik

    msport2012

    24 Jul, 2014 08:00 am

    With VA pulling out of MEL does this potentally mean that DL will offer daily flights to LAX with onward connections to NYC? If this is the case, it will complement the current DL16 SYD-LAX-NYC. 
    In saying this, it would be nice if DL/VA offer a SYD - SFO Daily Direct Service. 

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  • petrhsr

    petrhsr

    24 Jul, 2014 08:36 am

    There's just not the revenue in SYD-SFO that there is at LAX.  If there were, you'd better believe that QF, DL and VA would be all over it.

    LAX is... Well, LAX is LAX!  Not only is there a huge O&D market, there are also connections from just about every tin-pot airport with jet service in the United States.  SFO can't compete with that.

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  • Mini

    Mini

    24 Jul, 2014 03:37 pm

    How do Air NZ go daily to SFO (up to 10 per week in peak) on top of their ample LAX services? Surely there must be some coin to be made from Aus to SFO especially in a smaller aircraft like the 787-9?

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  • Hugo

    Hugo

    24 Jul, 2014 03:51 pm

    NZ does it by offering a slew of convenient connecting flights on United from SFO to everywhere else in the US. If you're not in bed with Star Alliance it's much harder to make SFO work.

    Virgin America may have a SFO hub but it's not anywhere near the scale of United's operation.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    24 Jul, 2014 10:31 pm

    Flying into a large friendly hub is the reason why UA flies to SFO (to leverage its own hub) and why QF flies to DFW (to leverage the AA fortress hub).

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  • Craig Dennington

    cdinoz

    25 Jul, 2014 08:29 am

    Would this free up a frame for a SYD to HKG routing, to meet up with sister airline Virgin Atlantic? 

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  • watson374

    watson374

    25 Jul, 2014 04:05 pm

    No, because the three days a week the frame is used to fly MEL are going to be used to run BNE daily, up from four days a week. Running SYD-LAX daily, BNE-LAX daily and SYD-AUH three times weekly means that all five 77Ws will be maxed out.

    Of course, it might be easier if they just asked EY to fly the three days a week to AUH on their own metal, freeing up the last 77W for something else.

    Anyway, the main point of the VS partnership was to access a HKG codeshare that didn't require dealing with hostile carriers (CX, QF) or diversions (SQ). Ex-HKG, all VS did was fly to LHR, and that could be done one-stop via both AUH (EY) and SIN (SQ). Now that the SYD-HKG leg is gone, there's very little value in VS. I would go so far as to argue that the only Virgin-Virgin partnership that is worth VA's time is actually Virgin America (VX) ex-LAX.

    Ultimately, unless AUH is also axed, you won't see new VA routes on 77Ws.

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  • iamwill

    iamwill

    25 Jul, 2014 08:36 pm

    I'm just excited that the beautiful 747 is coming back into Melbourne sky, if only for a short time. Where's my camera. 

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