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 (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

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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21 Jul, 2018 08:05 am

Which Qantas lounges can Air New Zealand Airpoints frequent flyer use?

Which Qantas lounges can Air New Zealand Airpoints frequent flyer use?

Air New Zealand's Airpoints frequent flyers will enjoy have access to Qantas Clubs around Australia under the newly-forged alliance between the two airlines.

As of October 28, 2018, Airpoints Elite and Gold members booked on a codeshare flight with Qantas will find the doors swing open for them at the two dozen Qantas Club lounges in Australia's capital cities and regional centres. They'll also be permitted to bring in one guest.

But it won't be as easy as flashing your shiny Airpoints card, as the following conditions apply:

  1. you have to be travelling on a domestic Qantas flight
  2. it has to be booked under the Air New Zealand codeshare (those flight numbers will be in the NZ7xxx range)
  3. and this must be booked as part of a trans-Tasman booking

This arrangement replaces Airpoints access to Virgin Australia lounges following the dramatic bust-up between the two former allies.

However, there appears to be no Qantas Club lounge access for Koru Club members, nor can AirNZ frequent flyers cool their heels in the more upmarket Qantas Business lounges.

The Qantas / Air New Zealand alliance covers selected flights on the domestic network of each airline, however trans-Tasman and other international flights are excluded from the arrangement.

Read more: Qantas, Air New Zealand alliance will take on Virgin Australia

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

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.

1 Comment

  • henrus


    20 Jul, 2018 05:31 pm

    Doesn't it seem a bit odd that Koru club won't get access (something that the VA deal provided) . I guess there will be no access for QF Club cardholders in NZ either?
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21 Jul, 2018 08:05 am

What you can expect from Cathay's new business class dining concept

What you can expect from Cathay's new business class dining concept

Cathay Pacific will roll out its new 'business class dining concept' this month, with the meal service taking a step closer to a first class experience.

Meals will be individually plated and delivered to passengers by hand rather than by trolley, as the airline adopts more personalised and upmarket approach.

Cathay also expects this will result in a "quieter and calmer cabin environment", especially on late night flights.

Passengers will have a choice between three appetisers and "up to six main course choices" on flights over ten hours in the initial launch of the service to the likes of Chicago (on July 30), London/Gatwick (in August) followed by Frankfurt, Manchester and Washington DC (September); Amsterdam, Paris and Johannesburg (October), Madrid, Brussels and Barcelona (November) and London/Heathrow (December). 

And, being very much on trend, light and healthy 'wellbeing options' feature in every main course.

On flights from Hong Kong the menu will be changed every month, with a quarterly menu refresh for flights to Hong Kong.

Fights from Hong Kong (but not, for now, the return leg) will also see a new range of Hong Kong Favourites inspired by local dishes, such as

  • Hong Kong char siu pork with egg noodles, seasoned soy sauce, spring onion and ginger (shown below)
  • Wok fried seafood in lobster soup with ginger, spring onion, crispy and steamed rice
  • Beef brisket with flat rice noodle soup
  • Mango with pomelo and sago

But before all that eatings starts, business class passengers will notice the new-look menus.

Printed as eight pages on quality paper, they not only detail the meals and drinks available on that flight but include foodie-friendly articles such as 'Anatomy of a Laksa' and feature a local chef revealing their favourite eateries both in Hong Kong and around thr world.

There will also be a breakfast menu card which passengers will complete before hitting the hay, so that they can wake to what the airline described as a "hotel room-service" experience.

However, these are set menus rather than allowing travellers to pick-and-mix from a wide selection of items.

In addition to what's described as 'traditional' Chinese and Western breakfasts, there's also a lighter Continental breakfast plus a minimalist Express breakfast of a piece of pastry and a drink, which can be served 60 minutes before landing for passengers who wish to maximise their sleep.

Refreshments will be revamped as a selection of 'most loved dishes' available throughout the flight as a snack between meals on services to North America and Europe, including the airline's signature burger and popular soup noodles. These will also appear on the main meal menu.

Next year will see Cathay's 'new business class dining concept' extend to medium-distance routes, with plans to include Sydney and Auckland in February 2019 and Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide and Perth in May 2019.

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

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.


  • Skipp


    20 Jul, 2018 12:48 pm

    Look forward to the new meal service in business class coming within the next 12 months - it will make a nice change.
    I just hope (for the future) that Cathay Pacific will stop serving the exact same economy class meals in "Premium" economy class.
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  • MissBasset


    20 Jul, 2018 01:34 pm

    Why bother with the white linen tablecloth if they are serving it on a plastic cafeteria tray? The promo pictures show all set up to eat off the tray. Euww.. I will take it all off the tray and set it up like other airlines J class. FAIL for presentation, CX.
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  • mrj


    20 Jul, 2018 02:42 pm

    I recently suggested to Cathay that their business classs food is amongst the worst of all airlines. Interestingly their response failed to mention this planned revamp.
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    20 Jul, 2018 02:57 pm

    I'm really glad they're going back to classy, glossy paper stock for the menus versus the uncoated groundwood paper they switched to a few years back. Now if they would only bring back that trademark chocolate box at the end of the meal...
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  • David Flynn


    20 Jul, 2018 03:25 pm

    I was on CX a few weeks back and the chocolates made an appearance on every flight...
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  • Manjit Sadhwani

    Manjit Sadhwani

    20 Jul, 2018 03:19 pm

    It's about time
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  • HKAus


    20 Jul, 2018 03:41 pm

    CX Catering is bar far the most outdated and leaves an overall cheap and poor guest experience of most International airliners. CX have unfortunately chosen over the last decade to reduce their overheads where guests can see and feel the difference. Personally after 5 years as a Diamond CX member I have moved to competitors; poor catering, moody crew members, consistently delayed flights (due to over use of planes with no margin for delays) and ridiculous pricing have enabled me to now enjoy such operators as KLM, Virgin Australia, Qantas & Lufthansa; all with an overall better "J"Class experience. Interestingly as a result of my change in travel I was dropped to Gold and this year even though I should have dropped another tier, they obviously are trying to get pax like myself back because they extended my gold status.
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  • Rkwm


    20 Jul, 2018 04:39 pm

    It was taken CX far too long to make changes to the atrocious F&B that has annoyed their long term supporters . The plastic cafeteria tray certainly brings the enhancements down a few levels can’t, understsnd who approved this inclusion . Totally agree with HKAus, supported CX for over two decades but over the last two years the deterioration in service , punctuality and value has been palpable.

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  • Tony OBERON


    20 Jul, 2018 04:48 pm

    Looks marginally better - but CX are you seriously going to use a plastic tray? At least put a cloth on the tray - if for no other reasons than hygiene! I’m a germophobe and I cringe to see cutlery sitting on a plastic tray, which cannot be washed at the same high temps as crockery. Lysteria et al here we come.
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21 Jul, 2018 08:05 am

 Cartier Santos: the original pilot's watch, reimagined

Cartier Santos: the original pilot's watch, reimagined

Very few watches can claim true originality, and the Cartier Santos is among those few.

The Santos made its debut way back in 1904 as a personal timepiece for aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, making it both the first pilot’s watch and one of the earliest known men’s wristwatches.

The story

As we've previously detailed, the Santos was borne from a request by Brazilian flyer Santos-Dumont, who told his friend Louis Cartier – then a Parisian watchmaker – of the challenge of timing flights using the then-conventional pocket watch, as pilots needed to keep both hands on the aircraft controls.

In response, Cartier designed a large square-faced watch and fitted it to a strap so it could be worn on the wrist – quite a revolutionary concept at the time.

The first commercial Cartier Santos watches went on sale to the public in 1911 with solid gold cases and ultra-thin mechanical movements designed by French clockmaker Edmond Jaeger.

(In order to produce this movement for Cartier, Jaeger worked with Swiss movement manufacturer Jacques-David LeCoultre, a partnership that would lead to the birth of storied brand Jaeger-LeCoultre.)

The enduring design of the Cartier Santos was reimagined in the late 1970s as a luxury steel sports watch, later adding two-tone steel and gold and the now-iconic screwed bezel with exposed gold screws along the bracelet for a modern, industrial aesthetic.

The style

For 2018, Cartier has once again re-invented the Santos.

The distinctive screw-set bezel now tapers at both ends towards the bracelet to create an organic, integrated look.

The satin-brushed case features a wide mirror-polished bevel along its length, extending all the way to the gracefully curved crown guards at 3 o’clock. A square watch the Santos may be, but there’s hardly a sharp edge or straight line to be found.

The case has been slimmed dramatically from previous incarnations of the Santos, allowing this watch to disappear easily under a shirt cuff when needed.

The bracelet is fitted with a new 'QuickSwitch' system allowing for easy swapping with the included tan calfskin strap or Cartier’s alternative crocodile straps, providing some style versatility.

Adding or removing bracelet links has also been made easier with a new 'SmartLink' design which allows the wearer to expand the bracelet during a hot summer’s day without requiring a tool.

While the bezel, case and bracelet have all been modernised, the dial remains classic Cartier. With Roman numerals, a railroad minute-track and heat-blued hands, it’s hard to imagine a more traditional look.

The 2018 Cartier Santos can serve dress-watch and sports-watch duties equally well, and boasts a history that few timepieces can match.

The details

• In-house mechanical movement with automatic winding
• Seven-sided crown set with a faceted synthetic spinel
• Silvered opaline dial, blued-steel sword-shaped hands, sapphire crystal
• Water-resistant to 10 bar (approximately 100 metres)
• Medium version case width: 35.1 mm, thickness: 8.83 mm
• Large version case width: 39.8 mm, thickness: 9.08 mm
• Pricing from A$8,750 for the Cartier Santos Medium in steel, to A$52,500 for the Cartier Santos Large in solid pink gold with matching pink gold bracelet. For stockists, visit

Jason Swire

Jason Swire (Jason Swire)

[email protected] /

Jason Swire is a Sydney-based writer, watch collector and author of 'Timely Advice', a beginner's guide to fine timepieces. His non-watch passions include hi-fi and whiskey, in that order.

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21 Jul, 2018 08:05 am

Finnair flicks the switch on free WiFi for European flights

Finnair flicks the switch on free WiFi for European flights

Finnair will launch inflight Internet on its European flights this week, with travellers able to enjoy the high-speed satellite service free of charge during a two-month trial period running through to the end of September.

The Oneworld airline has already outfitted six of its single-aisle Airbus jets with technology provided through partner Viasat, which also provided the backbone for Qantas' Australia-wide WiFi system.

By the end of northern summer some 20 aircraft will be upgraded, with Finnair's entire single-aisle Airbus fleet slated for WiFi by mid-2019.

The system will be available on a gate-to-gate basis, so passengers won't even need to wait for their jet to reach level flight – which will maximise time online for many of Finnair's relatively short European hops.

However, parts of some European routes will present black spots to the satellite network, including above the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea, while some restrictions also apply over Latvia, Lithuania, parts of Belarus and Russia.

Over the two-month testing period Finnair intends to "gather information on system functionality and feedback on the overall customer experience."

"In entering the passenger testing phase, we’ll be gaining the critical insights needed to further optimise our service to ensure Finnair customers get a unique experience built around their needs, interests and usage behaviours," explains Viasat vice-president Don Buchman.

The airline has yet to reveal what pricing it will charge for its sky-high WiFi once the trial period ends, although frequent flyers will no doubt hope that some sort of monthly pass is available as an alternative to paying on a per-flight basis.

Finnair already offers WiFi on its long-range 'intercontinental' jets, with the first hour free for business class and Finnair Plus Gold members, then €3 (A$4.70) for three hours or €20 (A$31) for the entire flight. Finnair Plus Platinum frequent flyers are provided with free Internet access for the whole flight.

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

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.


  • eight10man


    20 Jul, 2018 06:19 pm

    Not sure how you can have black spots when using satellite internet.. especially when those black spots happen to be above the sea. Could it be this system is actually and ground-to-ground system maybe?
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  • readosunnycoast


    20 Jul, 2018 10:35 pm

    Just flew BKK>>>HEL, A350 with wifi. Couldnt get a connection of any sort. Just kept message, don’t close the browser. I do hope it gets better for the next lot of passengers
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21 Jul, 2018 08:05 am


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