Virgin Australia says it's not about to give any ground to Qantas in the ongoing Battle of Business Class, despite a third of its six-strong Airbus A330 fleet now being earmarked for Hong Kong rather than domestic routes.
The mid-year launch of Virgin's Sydney-Hong Kong service means one less of the twin-aisle jets will be available for transcontinental flights, although there's expected to be some alleviation as the Melbourne-Hong Kong flights are scaled back to five days a week.
By comparison, Qantas has twelve domestic A330s on tap for the popular and premium-heavy east-west services.
Virgin's retort is said to to be a new Boeing 737 'Coast to Coast' business class which the airline first revealed to Australian Business Traveller in July 2017, which it has described as a “quantum leap in domestic business class.”
However, airline chief John Borghetti is determined to keep further details up his well-tailored sleeve – including the timeline for the launch of what he's called 'the Perth product' and if these business class seats would also feature on the airline's factory-fresh Boeing 737 MAX jets, due for delivery from the tail end of 2019.
“What I will say is we will never have an uncompetitive product on a very important route like the east coast / west coast,” Borghetti tells Australian Business Traveller. “Of that, you can be sure.”
More A330s head to Asia
Virgin continues to chase landing rights in what Borghetti terms "greater China, including Hong Kong" to extend is nascent Asian network, with each new route potentially seeing another Airbus A330 pulled off the domestic schedule.
Virgin Australia Airlines group executive Rob Sharp told Australian Business Traveller in December 2017 that he expects “there will always be A330s” on the airline's east-west roster, saying "we’re not going to take all the A330s off the route.”
This could see some of the big jets remain on the red-eye run from Perth to the eastern capital cities and on the westbound flights which dovetail into those overnight returns.
At the time, with only Melbourne-Hong Kong flights announced, Sharp said “there’s not an immediate need” for the new transcontinental business class.
“But at the moment the (Perth product) decision’s not needed because we haven’t got those Hong Kong slots.”