Virgin Australia has confirmed a July 5 launch of direct flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong. Click here for full details.
PREVIOUS | Virgin Australia is expected to announce the start of flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong this week after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today granted an 'interim authorisation' to an alliance between Virgin, stakeholder HNA Aviation Group, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express.
While Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has played his cards close to his chest when it comes to which Australian city would anchor the Hong Kong flights, draft schedules exposed through Google – although not confirmed by the airline – now list daily flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong.
An estimated 140 crew recruited for Virgin's domestic operations are being moved to the airline's international arm and will be based in Melbourne, according to a Virgin Australia employee with knowledge of the plans.
That number is reportedly twice as many as are required for the relaunched Melbourne-Los Angeles service, which commences on April 4, with the airline "advertising for domestic flight attendants to transfer to Virgin International" for Hong Kong flights slated to begin in June.
Melbourne has long been tipped for the route, which will see Virgin going up against incumbents Qantas and Cathay Pacific as the challenger spreads its international wings.
Virgin plan to fly Airbus A330 jets on the route, tempting corporate travellers with the promise of modern and spacious business class seats with direct aisle access for every passenger.
The ACCC's interim authorisation also covers proposed flights "between Australia and mainland China".
The granting of interim approval will allow Virgin to press the button on its planned expansion into Hong Kong and China, with connections and codeshare flights through HNA, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express along with reciprocal agreements for frequent flyer programs and lounge access.
In a statement issued following the ACCC's decision, Virgin Australia said it "will announce further details on the route, on sale date and when flights will commence soon."