By James Wilkinson
The highly anticipated expansion of V Australia’s route network has been announced, with the airline set to add flights to Phuket and Johannesburg in late 2009 and early 2010.
V Australia is set to fly to Thailand and South Africa
The Thai and South African destinations are the second and third respectively, following the airline’s launch of flights to Los Angeles from both Brisbane and Sydney.
Flights from Melbourne to Los Angeles will also commence later this year, with the first direct, twice-weekly flight to commence on December 1, a tick over two months later than the originally proposed.
Even with the delay in the Melbourne-Los Angeles flights, consumers are set to be the big winners as airfares are once again expected to drop on services from Australia’s second largest city to the US west coast.
Melbourne is the biggest winner in the V Australia expansion, with direct flights to Phuket (once weekly) and Johannesburg (twice weekly) set to commence on December 3, 2009 and March 13, 2010 respectively.
V Australia will also commence twice-weekly direct Brisbane-Phuket flights from November 22, 2009.
“We believe our new destinations offer very exciting opportunities,” said Virgin Blue Airlines Group CEO Brett Godfrey.
“Travellers outbound will experience Australian aviation at its best to the USA, Thailand and South Africa and we have high hopes for inbound tourism as we work with partners in our new markets to help develop traffic into Australia via Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
“V Australia will be the only airline to offer direct flights from Brisbane to Phuket and Melbourne to Phuket, as well as from Melbourne to South Africa.
“The March launch of Johannesburg flights will be just in time for fans travelling to South Africa to cheer on the Socceroos at the FIFA World Cup,” Godfrey said.
Many insiders had expected the Johannesburg flights to launch prior to the FIFA World Cup in 2010, given the high level interest of Australians seeking to travel to South Africa to cheer on the Socceroos.
The Melbourne-Johannesburg could be one of V Australia’s most lucrative into the future, with yesterday’s (Aug 17) launch fares starting from $1899, almost $1000 more than the Sydney-Los Angeles launch prices in 2008.
The flights will also break the monopoly Qantas and South African Airways have had on the Australia-Johannesburg routes, which have proven to be highly successful for both carriers – particularly over the last decade – out of Sydney and Perth respectively.
Also set to launch before the end of 2009 for V Australia are daily Sydney-Nadi services replacing Pacific Blue flights.
The airline has lodged an application with the International Air Services Commission for permission and slots to operate the flights and an outcome is yet to be determined.
To celebrate launch of flights to Phuket and Johannesburg, V Australia has announced special fares on the airline’s website starting from $399 one way to Phuket and $1899 return to Johannesburg from Melbourne.
Special launch fares for International Business Class are also available from $1499 one-way to Phuket and $5999 return to Johannesburg, while International Premium Economy fares are available from $899 one-way to Phuket and $2999 return to Johannesburg.