Virgin Australia launches Queenstown, Wellington flights

Virgin Australia launches Queenstown, Wellington flights

Virgin Australia will launch new routes between Sydney and Wellington and between Melbourne and Queenstown from October this year, as the airline prepares to end its partnership with Air New Zealand – with extra flights also being added to Auckland from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

However, existing services from Brisbane to Wellington and from Melbourne to Christchurch will be wound back, with fewer flights each week.

Here’s what’s changing in Virgin Australia’s network to each New Zealand city.

Flights between Auckland and Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane

Virgin’s existing flights between Sydney and Auckland will be ramped up to run double-daily on weekends from October 28, and up to three times daily on weekdays – the third daily service, VA145/VA142, being added to the roster from December 10 2018:

Services between Melbourne and Auckland will also increase to run twice daily in each direction from late October, compared to 11 flights each week at present.

Out of Brisbane, Virgin’s current flying schedule will be rejigged from October 28, reducing to just one flight in each direction on Saturdays, but with a third flight running from Brisbane to Auckland early on Monday mornings and returning late on Friday evening for business travellers:

Flights between Christchurch and Melbourne

As of late October, Virgin Australia will move its Melbourne-Christchurch flight to a daily service.

Running in the evenings as VA99 out of Melbourne – pushing back at 6:35pm to land at 11:55pm – the flight will return as VA96, leaving NZ at 3:50pm to reach the Victorian capital in time for dinner at 5:45pm.

Virgin Australia currently runs up to 11 weekly flights on this route, although during off-peak times often winds that back to only four weekly services, with this change bringing more reliable flight options when Virgin Australia’s codeshares on Air New Zealand’s flights are removed.

Flights between Queenstown and Melbourne

With flights to Queenstown already available from both Sydney and Brisbane, Virgin Australia will launch a new Melbourne-Queenstown route from October 28, with three flights per week running as standard, increasing with a fourth weekly flight during periods of high demand:

Notably, Virgin Australia will be the only airline to offer business class on this route, as both Air New Zealand and Jetstar currently fly all-economy planes between the two cities.

Flights between Wellington and Sydney, Brisbane

For Sydney passengers, Virgin will kick off Sydney-Wellington flights from October 28, running five times per week in each direction – breaking the current duopoly on the route held by Qantas and Air New Zealand.

However, existing flights between Brisbane and Wellington will be dialled back to nine flights per week from up to 14 at present, with this change yet to be reflected in the airline’s booking system.

All new and revised trans-Tasman flights will be operated by Boeing 737-800 aircraft, featuring eight business class seats in a 2-2 layout, identical to what you’d find on the airline’s domestic flights but with new touches such as amenity kits on selected flights.

AusBT review: Virgin Australia trans-Tasman business class

Other routes not mentioned will continue as normal, including Virgin Australia’s Brisbane-Dunedin service, which is the only international service at Dunedin Airport.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • sgb


    16 Apr, 2018 01:30 pm

    Can Business Class use a lounge at Queenstown? If so, what lounge is it.
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  • Chris Chamberlin


    16 Apr, 2018 01:33 pm

    Virgin Australia currently uses Air New Zealand's lounge in Queenstown, but as previously reported, Virgin Australia's updated lounge arrangements for trans-Tasman flights (once the AirNZ partnership ends) have not yet been publicised.
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  • cavemanzk


    16 Apr, 2018 04:40 pm

    Most likely an airport 'cafe voucher' if you're lucky will be accepted by BK at AKL.
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  • Chris McKellar


    17 Apr, 2018 10:08 am

    Currently, VA uses Air NZ lounge at Queenstown. The only other airline lounge at Queentown is QF lounge which backs onto Air NZ lounge.
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  • Andrew


    17 Apr, 2018 11:51 pm

    According to the Queenstown Airport website, Qantas use a contracted lounge called the 'Manaia Lounge' which also accepts Priority Pass customers.

    Unless they have an exclusivity agreement with Qantas, I don't see why that wouldn't be an option for VA (unless it wasn't economic).
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  • Chris McKellar


    18 Apr, 2018 08:32 am

    Qantas is the only user of the Queenstown Lounge, as there is only 3 international carriers to Queenstown, being NZ, VA and QF.
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  • Andrew


    18 Apr, 2018 09:18 am

    Sure, but my point was it isn't Qantas' lounge - that Virgin would be negotiating access with the airport/lounge owner, not with Qantas.

    I would think that given the relatively limited number of Qantas and VA flights compared to Air NZ, the lounge owner would be welcoming of extra business.
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  • downdata


    16 Apr, 2018 01:31 pm

    Great news for travellers. They need all the competition they can get. There is a reason why J seats across the tasman are less than 1/2 the price of some shorter domestic au routes...
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  • markathome


    16 Apr, 2018 01:35 pm

    The real question is lounge access for eligible flyers - will it be AirNZ in all affected cities after October?
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  • Chris Chamberlin


    16 Apr, 2018 02:21 pm

    As previously reported and noted above, Virgin Australia's updated lounge arrangements for trans-Tasman flights (once the AirNZ partnership ends) have not yet been publicised.
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  • tomJ


    16 Apr, 2018 01:55 pm

    Looks like it'll be a good time to be flying to NZ with three major carriers upping the ante against each other.
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  • reeves35


    16 Apr, 2018 02:13 pm

    I think you're right though we know that a capacity war doesn't really help anyone in the long term.

    Trans-Tasman is a fairly small part of revenue mix for QF and VA. It is crucial however for NZ so it needs to secure a victory in this battle ASAP as capacity war will affect their results more than the Australian carriers who have very profitable domestic (and in QF's case international) businesses to fall back on.
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  • aviation


    17 Apr, 2018 09:24 am

    Whilst I agree the Tasman is most imporant for NZ compared to the other, they also have a very profitably domestic and international network, and a much better balance sheet than VA.
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  • AwaywithMike


    16 Apr, 2018 03:33 pm

    This is very interesting!
    Finally 2 business class operators on this route - and now 3 independent carriers. As a very regular business traveler across the Tasman, I’m looking to the pricing impacts. Plus the addition of SQ on WLG-MEL.

    Re lounges.. I predict VA will use SQ in Au and only NZ or QF’s in NZ.
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  • henrus


    16 Apr, 2018 07:58 pm

    Now's the time for VA to go full service across the Tasman...

    They kept the no bag no food policy across the Tasman to align with NZ (even when they changed the domestic network) and I guess now they no longer have to align with them they can go full service across to NZ (for the first time ever) and potentially give themselves a greater competitive edge over NZ (and even compete with QF).
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  • Alex


    17 Apr, 2018 01:16 am

    Agreed. I just flew them yesterdsy AKL-MEL and completely forgot food was on included on some fares. I was on a DL code and wasn’t eligible for the meal which surprised me.

    Meanwhile I’d like to know how many VA pax actually booked through NZ as they (NZ) seem confident they can go it alone. If NZ coded pax made up a large chunk of people flying on VA metal, it’ll be interesting to see where VA are going to get all the extra passengers from.
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  • Chris McKellar


    17 Apr, 2018 10:23 am

    VA passenger make up will be from Australian/NZ domestic markets and passengers from VA Chinese airline shareholders. SQ already has a deep relationship with NZ, so SQ won't have to many SQ flights number on VA Trans Tasman services.

    I think VA will do a 'Seats to Suit' style of cabin services and pricing similar to Air NZ, to catch passengers from JQ.
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  • Dave


    17 Apr, 2018 12:51 pm

    Virgin has Tiger if they want to play in that cheapo space. If VA want to be a full service airline, then they will need to standardize with their domestic offering and provide the food/baggage.
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  • Anthony

    Big Easy

    18 Apr, 2018 01:48 pm

    Hello all,
    I fly to Queenstown 6-8 times a year from Melbourne. Normally on AirNZ booked through VA so very happy VA have announced these flights. Depending on schedule I also fly on Jetstar which operate a direct service but avoid it if possible. With regards to lounge access a mistake I made the first time is if you go through the customs/passport control area at Queenstown airport into the boarding gate area you can't access the AirNZ lounge, and you're not allowed back out to access it. The AirNZ lounge is located in the main area of the airport. The Qantas lounge (Manaia Lounge?) is located inside the boarding area. I've often flown the night flight back (departs 8:15pm from memory) on Jetstar and been the only person in the lounge (I'm a QF Life Member which grants me access) - which seems ridiculous that they'd keep it open for one person. Hopefully as suggested above Virgin will strike a deal for access into this lounge.
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  • CCampbell


    18 Apr, 2018 04:25 pm

    I fly from Sydney to NZ about once a month then internally in NZ, mostly VA booked code share flights, and AirNZ internally. I moved from Qantas as internal flights in NZ with CrapStar are not pleasant.

    As Virgin have not yet announced any lounge facilities, I assume they were caught out with the announcement. No announcement, means it is difficult to plan ahead.

    Looks like I could be heading back to Qantas.

    What are Virgin doing in Sydney about an International Lounge?
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24 May, 2019 03:39 pm


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