Thu, May 05, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Virgin rebrands Australia, Pacific operations


Virgin Group Ltd founder and chairman Richard Branson waves the Australian flag from the cockpit of an A330 passenger jet after arriving for the unveiling of the new face of the Virgin Blue Group of airlines in Sydney yesterday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Sir Richard Branson yesterday announced a rebranding of Virgin’s airline operations in Australia and the Pacific in a bid to grab a larger slice of the corporate market from rival Qantas.

Domestic carrier Virgin Blue and its international offshoots, Pacific Blue and V Australia, will all be known as Virgin Australia, with negotiations under way to bring Polynesia Blue under the same umbrella.

British entrepreneur and part owner Branson, who launched the new airline in Sydney with chief executive John Borghetti, said the move would allow Virgin to build a single strong brand recognized globally.

As well as changing the name, Virgin has also dropped the bright red body paint from its aircraft in favor of a more conservative white with red trim as it seeks to revive fortunes after rising fuel prices eroded earnings.

Branson said the Virgin Australia brand represented a new chapter for the airline, which first started flying in Australia 11 years ago.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the new look and feel of Virgin Australia’s domestic product and I know it will shake up the Australian travel market on a larger scale than it did 10 years ago,” Branson said.

Analysts said the move was part of a strategy to shift Virgin, Australia’s second-largest carrier, away from low-cost carriers such as Jetstar and Tiger Airways and toward Qantas in the full-service market.

Virgin fired the first shots in this battle by introducing a new Boeing 737-800 and an Airbus A330-200 aircraft to its Australian domestic fleet yesterday.

More are expected later in the year, complete with luxury leather seating and a gourmet menu designed by Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan.

“We’re going after Qantas’ business market and by capturing that business market we will be able to do a lot more for the economy customer,” Branson told reporters.

He said Virgin Australia would reposition the business in line with its overseas counterparts — Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America — which have a strong business class offering.

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