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Virgin Atlantic to quit Sydney-Hong Kong from May

Two Virgin Atlantic A340-600s: Chris Lofting for Wiki Commons

Virgin Australia loyalty program members will lose the benefits of flying to Hong Kong on Virgin Atlantic from Sydney from early May, after the competitive heat proved too much for the UK carrier.

This is the statement from Virgin Atlantic, Tuesday night Australian time:

Virgin Atlantic has announced its intention to withdraw operations between Sydney and Hong Kong from 5th May 2014.

Increasing costs and a challenging economic environment have affected revenues and the route is no longer considered profitable. Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate services between London Heathrow and Hong Kong.

This decision will affect some staff based in Sydney and Hong Kong. A consultation period has commenced with all employees likely to be affected.

Craig Kreeger, Chief Executive at Virgin Atlantic said, “Unfortunately we intend to withdraw our services between Sydney and Hong Kong.  Despite the best efforts of our employees, external factors such as increasing costs and a weakening Australian dollar have affected our profitability.

“These are still difficult times for the airline industry and as part of our strategy to operate more efficiently, we need to deploy our aircraft to routes with the right level of demand to be financially viable.”

It is Virgin Atlantic’s intention that the last flight departing Sydney to Hong Kong will be on 5 May 2014 and the last flight departing Hong Kong to Sydney will be on 4 May 2014. Up to that date, Virgin Atlantic will continue to operate its published schedule and customers can be confident booking flights for travel prior to then.

The winners from Virgin Atlantic’s capitulation are Cathay Pacific, by a large margin, followed by Qantas, as well as arch foe British Airways, in so far as its code sharing with Cathay Pacific to provide an alternative route to London from Australia is concerned.

The dropping of Hong Kong again points to a lack of convenient links to northern China, as well as to the SAR for Virgin Australia.

Virgin Atlantic is 51% owned by Richard Branson’s family company, and 49% by US carrier Delta, which is in a trans Pacific alliance with Virgin Australia.

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  • 1
    mrsynik
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Are Virgin Aus going to pick up the slack? Links between Australia & Japan are becoming increasingly difficult too these days. There was talks they would run an Aus – Japan route years ago, but nothing ever came to be it would seem.

  • 2
    nonscenic
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Perhaps a consequence of the direct flights to Chinese destinations together with the expansion of stopover airports between aus/nz and Europe.
    If only virgin could strengthen its links to the star alliance then velocity members could vote with their feet and put another nail in the qantas coffin.

  • 3
    comet
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    It’s sad to see Virgin Atlantic pull out.

    I’ve flown that flight to Hong Kong and was impressed. The A340 was a great aircraft, and Virgin had it fitted out very nicely.

  • 4
    Ken Borough
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Would be interesting to know the role of two of Virgin Australia’s owners -Etihad and Singapore Airlines – in this decision. Did VS lose a valuable source of traffic?

  • 5
    Bear
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Damn!!! There goes my preferred RTW ticket option for later this year.

    IMO – and I’m sure they know this, but with their 332′s, all VA would need to do to compete reasonably well with CX would be 2 flights a day between SYD or BNE/HKG. One in the morning, one in the arvo heading north, then both a daylight & late evening flt coming back.

    As far as soft product goes, VA already have their 332′s fitted with that over-cooked (for domestic flights, anyway) business class. Then they could move 8-10 rows of Y seating a few more inches apart, for a DL/HA/UA-style “economy comfort” PY with priority boarding and slightly upgraded meal service thrown in, and then the rest is standard Y.

    But will it happen? and from May onwards ?, is the question.

  • 6
    sim86on
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    VA might deploy their eigth and ‘spare’ A330 (to be delevered in Sept) to Hong Kong?

    http://www.ausbt.com.au/virgin-australia-cautious-about-international-routes-for-airbus-a330

  • 7
    moa999
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Also an interesting quote on the AusBT version of the announcement

    “Fisher reported that “now there is more London than Hong Kong. And I think that is a direct result of the changes that Qantas and Emirates have made.”

    Which suggests that Virgin Atlantic had picked up more London traffic from Qantas passengers preferring not to go via Dubai.

    However these makes Virgin Atlantic’s decision even weirder – without these ex SYD passengers, who I suspect will mostly switch to other airlines who can take them direct to London, their HKG-LHR planes are also going to be empty.

  • 8
    Mini Fahey
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    …velocity members could vote with their feet and put another nail in the Qantas coffin. How sensible….will you be passing out the champagne to the QF staff if the coffin is ever sealed.. Sounds more non sensible than non scenic.

  • 9
    Allan Moyes
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    moa999

    My thought is that anyone in their right mind would prefer to fly to London via almost any city other than Dubai. But that is a personal bias.

    Also, I could be very wrong – it’s not unknown! – but I’m sure I read that Virgin Atlantic were doing very well LHR/HKG, it was the SYD leg that was a difficulty. Of course that info could be out of date and they are also struggling LHR/HKG.

  • 10
    moa999
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Alan,
    Not disagreeing that some prefer not to fly via DXB. I personally don’t have any objections and indeed like DXB airport, although am not a fan of the short DXB-LHR segment before arriving at 6am in LHR – mind you the way back is better body clock wise.

    My point was that Virgin Atlantic quoted it had seen an increase in SYD-HKG-LHR through traffic which means a decent portion of their HKG-LHR routes will be coming from SYD. Drop the SYD routes and thats a lot of space to fill on the HKG-LHR services

  • 11
    michael r james
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    @moa999

    Allan wrote: “prefer … almost any city other than Dubai”, ie. city versus airport.
    No contest really. Dubai is like Las Vegas which I visit about once every ten or 20 years to see how awful it is.

    Are there stats on how many of the pax doing Oz to Europe who go “straight thru” (ie. never get out of an airport en route) versus those who stop-over? (Also, it is so long since I flew Qantas, can I fly with them to HK, stop-over for several days or a week and fly onward with them to LHR?)

  • 12
    michael r james
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    @moa999 at 11:52 am

    Forgot to add: arriving at 6am in LHR is the best thing you can do for your body clock. You need to distinguish tiredness versus serious jetlag. Of course that assumes you do the right thing when you arrive: stay up the whole day getting as much sun as you can in the daytime (even in UK!) and not going to bed early. The tiredness can be gone the day after but jetlag will afflict you for days if you do the wrong thing.

  • 13
    moa999
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    michael, I absolutely prefer to arrive in the mornings with timezone changes. I will set my watch to the destination before I get onto the plane, and try and sleep that way on the plane – effectively get part of it out of the way onboard.

    The problem is the new DXB-LHR is too short.

    However on the way back for a 6am SYD/MEL arrival DXB-SYD is preferable to SIN-SYD

  • 14
    michael r james
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    moa999 at 10:33 pm

    OK. But why go via DXB? And I’m presuming you don’t leave the airport?
    Excuse me if I am repeating myself (which I definitely am since I have written this several times on this site) but the HK route arrives (or can) in Europe at 6 am (sometimes a bit earlier, though I’m talking Paris) so you’re not saving time. That’s from a HK flight leaving a bit after midnight. I usually choose the flight that gets into HK late afternoon and spend 6h in HK (in town, not the airport). By the time I get on the plane I am ready to sleep–it’s several hours ahead of your (Oz) bio-clock so quite late and a longish flight (not that I can sleep the whole time …).

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