Sep 20, 2016

Virgin Australia restores Melbourne LAX 777s and puts A330s on Perth-Abu Dhabi

It might only have small wide body fleets but Virgin Australia is working them like there is no tomorrow

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Virgin Australia's A332s also carry its new business class product
Virgin’s A332s also carry its new business class product

Virgin Australia has reversed its dropping of non-stop flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles in October 2014 and will restore its 777-300ERs to the route five times weekly from April 4 next year.

These are the refurbished 777s and there is nothing with anything like their amenity flying the Australia-America routes, not even the Qantas A380s.

For its previously spurned Melbourne flyers to America, this looks like Virgin Australia seeking redemption.

It will also launch Perth-Abu Dhabi A330-200 flights three times weekly from June 9 next year.

This reallocation of 777 and A330 capacity will see Virgin Australia drop its three times weekly Sydney-Abu Dhabi 777 flights after next February 4 and reduce Brisbane-Los Angeles 777 flights from seven to six per week from April 7.

However Virgin Australia’s major investor, Etihad, will replace that capacity on the Sydney-Abu Dhabi route with an additional three of its own 777 services. Etihad also has daily Airbus A380s on its Abu Dhabi services from Sydney and Melbourne.

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8 thoughts on “Virgin Australia restores Melbourne LAX 777s and puts A330s on Perth-Abu Dhabi

  1. Dan Dair

    “It might only have small wide body fleets but Virgin Australia is working them like there is no tomorrow”

    With respect, Ben,
    Isn’t that exactly what any owner of an extremely expensive asset should be doing, to maximise the return on that investment.?

    I fully accept that there’s no point in having an plane in the air for its own sake, it clearly has to be on a potentially revenue-generating operation. But any opportunity to make money should be exploited.?

    I don’t know how long a ‘daily’ service on a commercial airliner takes.
    I suppose it depends on the aircraft & the number of engineers you commit to working on it,
    however I am surprised that most aircraft in Australia seem to work around thirteen hours a day. I suspect that this policy leaves five or six hours of potential ‘duty’ time unused.?

    Perhaps, due to the distances involved between Australian cities, putting an ‘extra’ duty-leg into the day just doesn’t work.?
    Perhaps it’s the relatively small population for the size of the country that means outside of ‘core’ hours, there just isn’t the market.?
    Though, I’d have thought that there would be a JetStar opportunity to run cheap flights ‘out-of-hours’ to gain extra utility from their aircraft at times when slots were available & perhaps, landing-fees might be reduced.?

    1. James Wilson


      You’ll find the 13 hours/day utilisation is averaged over the course of a year. The downtime includes all the engineering checks that are required during the year, some of which might take a day or two, or even longer if a heavy check is required. When that time is averaged over the course of the year it takes a big chunk out of the average daily utilisation. It also includes all the turn around time plus unscheduled maintenance that might be required and any ‘slack’ time where the aircraft simply can’t be used due to scheduling constraints. Aircraft that only fly domestic services normally have a much lower average daily utilisation than aircraft that fly internationally (particularly ultra long haul), simply because the sectors are quite short and they have many more turn arounds during the day.

      1. Dan Dair

        I was getting the 13 hours thing from the domestic schedules rather than any insight into operational averages.

        Ultimately, that was what I was making my point about possible JetStar/Low-cost ‘out of hours’ operations.
        It looks to me as if aircraft in Australia don’t work nearly as hard as European or US aircraft.? Perhaps it only seems that way.?

        1. James Wilson


          I haven’t found figures for Virgin Australia, but Qantas reported the average utilisation for its 737-800s was 12.6 hours/day in 2015.

          The UK Civil Aviation Authority publishes comprehensive for airlines in the UK. In 2015, British Airways used its A320 fleet 9.0 hours/day, while Easyjet managed 11.2 hours/day for its A320 fleet.

          In the US, MIT has an Airline Data Project. The 2015 figures for the ‘small narrowbody’ fleet of some of the airlines are as follows:
          American: 9.71
          Delta: 8.88
          United: 9.18
          Southwest: 10.36
          JetBlue: 14.65
          Virgin America: 10.93

          So perhaps the Australian carriers aren’t doing so badly after all!

  2. Roger

    Ben, for an economy passenger, what is the advantage of a refurbished 777 over the A380? thanks

    1. Ben Sandilands

      I should have specified for premium product passengers. However the Virgin 777 has retained the classic 9 across economy seat, which makes it as comfortable to sit in as the A380 10 across seat.
      On the dimensions, rather than offering a subjective judgement, this makes the lot of the Virgin and Qantas economy passengers (777 and A380 respectively) a draw, with the later being a quieter cabin and generally reaching a higher cruise altitude faster than the 777.
      That difference aside, both Australian carriers offer a larger standard economy seat in those aircraft than the more tightly configured 787s of United, Air Canada, American and Air NZ and the 777s of the latter two, which are higher density.
      Delta has also kept the classic 9 across seating in its 777-200LRs.
      I’m only including flights that go non-stop from Australia or NZ to continental USA or Canada. There are some fascinating and spacious alternatives doing combos over Seoul and Nadi for example, but check the prices and duration rather carefully of course.

      1. Roger

        Thanks. I’m definitely cattle class! Speed is important so direct flights are better for me.

  3. TT

    If Virgin Australia intends to use A330 fly Perth-Abu Dhabi, would they still have enough spare A330s to fly Sydney-Hong Kong or Sydney-Beijing (or whatever major Australian port Virgin is referred to) they have applied for earlier this year?

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