Sir Richard Branson has celebrated the launch of V Australia’s new Melbourne-Johannesburg flights in true Virgin fashion, by partying up on the inaugural service from South Africa yesterday (Mar 17) before hosting a gala event at Werribee.
Sir Richard Branson at the V Australia launch
The jungle-themed party at the Werribee Park Reception Centre celebrated the first time ever direct services have been offered between Melbourne and Johannesburg and was described by many guests as “extremely entertaining”.
One guest, Accor’s Media Relations Manager Gaynor Reid, said it was a “fantastic party”.
“There was lots of jungle theming all around the Mansion,” she told SpiceNews. “Richard arrived in a zebra-striped open air bus to the beat of African drums, wearing a warrior skirt, topless no less!”
Getaway presenter Catriona Rowntree was the emcee and Marcia Hines entertained the crowds with some soulful music, while Virgin’s Kirsty Aitken was responsible for the theming and stage production of the lavish event.
Branson said the V Australia flights brought new competition to a route traditionally the domain of a code-share monopoly.
“We have been absolutely delighted with the support V Australia has received for these new flights, not surprising given the close affiliation between the two countries and their respective people,” Branson said.
“While Australia and South Africa make terrific sporting sparring partners, the destinations offer vast contrasts for visitors with their native animals, environment and cultures,” he said.
Branson also used the launch party to announce the service would be increased to three-times per week from December 16 following increased demand from travellers.
“We are very pleased to announce a third weekly service will start from December this year and are excited by the challenge to bring the V Australia style of flying to this new route and opening up a new world of opportunities to stimulate Australian tourism and business relationships,” he said.
Virgin Blue CEO Brett Godfrey added: “There is a very strong existing VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) market between South Africa and Australia and we are confident we can further stimulate this through affordable fares, while at the same time promoting Australia as a highly desirable leisure destination for South African tourists.”
V Australia is celebrating the launch with some special airfares, including $1,493 return in International Economy Class, $2,999 return in International Premium Economy and $5,999 return in International Business Class (available for sale until March 23, 2010).