Virgin Australia will cease operating most of their flights to South-East Asia from next March. Virgin will withdraw entirely from the Perth-Phuket route, while three of the airline’s flights to Bali will be handed over to low-cost subsidiary Tigerair.
Virgin will provide Tigerair with three Boeing 737 narrow-body aircraft to operate the flights between Bali and Melbourne, Perth & Adelaide. The cabins will be reconfigured into an all-economy setup, with five rows of extra-legroom seating. Previously, Tigerair has operated a fleet of A320 aircraft only, but the shorter range of these aircraft rule them out from operating longer routes such as Melbourne-Bali.
The announcement came as Virgin revealed a multi-million dollar operating loss for the past financial year. Much of the blame for these poor results lies with the airline’s poor-performing international arm. Virgin has been struggling to fill seats on its international flights, particularly to Bali and Phuket in recent months. Some suspected that Virgin would pull out of Bali as well, however the flights are considered important to keep the airline’s frequent flyers happy. Velocity frequent flyers will still be able to use their points to fly to Bali on the new Tigerair flights, however no points will be earned on these flights, nor can Velocity points be used to book any other Tigerair flight.
The news has been met with a mixed reaction by our members. Many are disappointed, and some question the viability of Tigerair operating these routes. They wonder how Tiger will make money where Virgin has been unprofitable. They also question the competitiveness of a narrow-body service on routes where competitors include full-service airline Garuda and Jetstar, which uses the popular Dreamliner aircraft.
VA giving up a few routes (and planes) to Tiger was always predictable I guess, I’m sure more are on the way. I find it quite interesting though, the Tiger brand is absolute dirt™ in Australia with the safety issues/groundings still fresh and their ongoing rep as the most complained about airline. I therefore wonder how they are going to stack up against JQ, who although for us AFF’s hardly smells like roses, a vast amount of Australians are happy to fly on the cheap. I’m interested to see how a Tiger really stacks up against JQ on this route especially in a 737 v a Dreamliner.
Virgin also currently fly to Bali from Sydney and Melbourne. These flights will continue to be operated by Virgin, though some speculate that these routes will too be handed to Tigerair at some point.
Tiger’s discounted launch fares were soon matched by Air Asia, which last week announced a new direct service of their own between Sydney and Bali. Jetstar responded shortly afterwards with their own sale, with tickets going for around $100 on all three airlines. Even business class seats were heavily discounted, with both Jetstar and Air Asia offering business class seats for under $400!
With so many airlines now flying from Australia to Bali, some predict that a price war is inevitable. So, if you’re planning a trip to Bali, keep an eye out for some incredible deals in the near future!
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