BY JAMES WILKINSON
Virgin Australia has announced plans to fly from Sydney to Darwin from April 2, 2012, just after Silk Air launches flights from Singapore to the Northern Territory capital.
The launch is the first announcement from Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines as part of the carriers’ tie-up that was approved recently by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Virgin Australia’s daily flights from Sydney to Darwin will connect with Silk Air (SQ’s regional full service airline) flights to Singapore, which commence a few days earlier on March 26, 2012 and will be operated four times per week.
The airlines also used the Darwin announcement to confirm that reciprocal frequent flyer recognition and lounge access would commence on December 20, 2011. Codesharing on flights, meanwhile, is expected to take effect from early 2012.
“We are delighted to be adding Darwin to our network and providing more travel options for our customers as a result of our alliance with Virgin Australia,” said Singapore Airlines Executive Vice President Commercial and SilkAir Chairman, Mak Swee Wah.
“Our partnership enables us to better service this important market, particularly with the introduction of a strong business class product and extensive international connections.
“The launch of reciprocal frequent flyer programme ties will also be particularly exciting news for our loyal customers. Our partnership with Virgin Australia will be delivering tangible benefits to customers, with more choice for domestic and international travel combined with seamless service,” he said.
While Virgin Australia is yet to announce what aircraft will be used on the Sydney-Darwin route, it is expected that Boeing 737-800s – featuring eight of the airline’s new business class seats – will operate the run.
“Darwin is the gateway to the Northern Territory’s popular tourist destinations and is an increasingly important commercial hub,” said Virgin Australia Group Executive of Alliances, Network & Yield Management, Merren McArthur.
“The alliance with Singapore Airlines enables us to open up important new routes in Australia and Asia and we have moved quickly to identify and realise this opportunity with our new partner.
“Together with Singapore Airlines we will be able to offer visitors from Singapore, Asia and Europe the opportunity to visit the Northern Territory and then travel on to Sydney and the East Coast of Australia. Our services will also be attractive to business travellers who now have the option of a quality business class service from Sydney to Darwin and on to Singapore and beyond,” she said.
Virgin Australia also used the announcement to reveal that the airline would open a new lounge at Darwin Airport.