Virgin Australia is increasing routes and frequencies to New Zealand following the termination of its alliance with Air New Zealand, which becomes effective in October.
The new flights are needed because Virgin is losing services currently provided by Air New Zealand under their joint venture (JV) agreement.
Air New Zealand sparked the breakup by deciding not to renew the partnership when its authorization expires in October. Under the JV, the pair coordinated scheduling and shared revenue on routes between the two countries.
Virgin’s move to add flights follows a similar step by Air New Zealand, as the airlines prepare to transition from partners to rivals. The New Zealand carrier recently announced it will introduce two new routes as well as adding frequencies on others, which will boost its capacity by 15% in the Australia-New Zealand market.
The two routes being added by Virgin are between Sydney and Wellington, New Zealand with five flights a week, and between Melbourne, Australia and Queenstown, New Zealand with four weekly flights. They will be operated by Boeing 737-800s from Oct. 28. Air New Zealand already serves both these routes, and they are also contested by Qantas Group carriers.
Virgin is increasing capacity on three of its existing routes into the key Auckland market. It will add eight weekly Sydney-Auckland flights, giving it a total of 19. Melbourne-Auckland flights will increase from 10 to 14 per week, and Brisbane-Auckland will rise from 12 to 14. In comparison, Air New Zealand has up to six flights a day on Auckland-Sydney, and up to five daily flights on Auckland-Melbourne.
Virgin is also reducing frequencies on some routes as it reshuffles its Australia-New Zealand network. It will cut Melbourne-Christchurch flights from 11 to seven per week, and Brisbane-Wellington flights from 14 to nine. However, Virgin stressed its commitment to both these markets. Other flights are being retimed.
The airline noted it has had a presence in New Zealand since 2004, and signaled that it will be announcing further initiatives in this market soon.
by Adrian Schofield