V Australia finally launches with Sydney to Los Angeles route

Image: V Australia Launch
A Victorious day for Sir Richard, as the first 777-300ER to be used by an Australian airline made its debut transpacific flight today. V Australia’s Sydney-LA services will go head-to-head with Qantas and United. (Credit: James Morgan)

The latest airline to be linked with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin brand finally made its maiden flight this week. V Australia (“the international airline of Virgin Blue”) was supposed to launch in mid-December but its three brand new 360-seat 777-300ERs got delayed by the strikes at Boeing. As a result the inaugural flight from Sydney to Los Angeles was delayed until this week. Initially the service will operate three times weekly until Friday 20th March when operations become daily with the entry into service of V Australia’s second aircraft. With a flight time of between 14 and 15 hours it requires two aircraft to operate the route on a daily basis. Competition on the route will be provided by Qantas (double-daily flights) and United.

Image: V Australia Plane flying over sydney
We’d like to thank our friend Paul Sadler from Australian Aviation for this excellent air-air shot over Sydney Harbour of the LA-bound flight.
Chart: Australia - US air traffic 1999-2007
Source: BTRE

The Australia to US market grew by almost one-third between 2003 and 2007 but for the year ending November 2008 the market is down 2.2% while total international traffic to all countries is up 3.3%. While the Sydney to Los Angeles route remains the biggest, its share of the total traffic has fallen from 58% in 1999 to just 35% in 2007. Los Angeles remains the dominant US market though its share of traffic has fallen from 74% in 1999 to 63% in 2007. The table below shows weekly one-way frequencies (and seat capacities) on all current non-stop routes between Australia and the US (prior to the launch of V Australia).

Route Qantas Jetstar Hawaiian United
Sydney – Los Angeles 14 (5519)     7 (2429)
Melbourne – Los Angeles 7 (2795)      
Brisbane – Los Angeles 7 (2653)      
Sydney – San Francisco 5 (1895)     7 (2429)
Sydney – Honolulu 3 (687) 4 (1212) 3 (792)  
Source: OAG Max Online for 2 February 2009

A well as Los Angeles, two other US destinations are served non-stop, San Francisco and Honolulu in Hawaii, though both of these are served from just Sydney.

Brisbane and Melbourne to start with third and fourth aircraft

Apart from the daily Sydney to Los Angeles route V Australia will be adding thrice-weekly flights between Brisbane and Los Angeles from 8 April when its third 777-300ER becomes operational. Melbourne to Los Angeles should start in mid-September subject to regulatory approval. This route will also be served thrice-weekly and will require a fourth aircraft.

Parent company Virgin Blue reported a half-yearly loss this week and reckoned that it would probably report a loss for the full financial year, partly due to the investment costs associated with launching V Australia.

Image: V Australia Launch
CAP: Sydney celebrates its LA service ahead of Brisbane, which will be next in the running to launch the service from April. (Credit: James Morgan)


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