VIRGIN Australia has confirmed it will start flying between Melbourne and Hong Kong from July 5 after gaining interim approval for the service from Australia’s competition regulator.
The airline will offer five return services a week between the two cities with connections through alliance partners HNA Aviation and Hong Kong Airlines to 13 destinations in mainland China.
Tickets go on sale from March 22, subject to final regulatory approval. Fares are due to be released overnight and a Virgin spokeswoman said they would be “competitive”.
The airline will fly an Airbus A330-200 from Melbourne under flight number VA89 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and VA87 on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The return services on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday will be VA86.
Virgin Australia’s Airbus A330-200 fleet features 20 of the airline’s award-winning business class suites, ‘The Business’, as well as 255 economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.
“Virgin Australia’s entry into Hong Kong and Greater China is a key pillar of our international strategy, allowing us to tap into Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable inbound travel market,’’ Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti said.
“The Virgin Australia livery flying to Hong Kong for the first time is an exciting development and with it brings the style and sophistication that is synonymous with our brand.
“Travellers to and from Hong Kong will be able to fly in the world’s best business class and dine on a restaurant-in-the-sky experience designed by resident chef Luke Mangan.’’
Velocity Frequent Flyer members will be able to earn points and status credits on VA flights but details of reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and lounge access on the services to mainland China will be announced at a later date.
Virgin applied to the ACCC to form an alliance that would allow it to codeshare with Hong Kong Airlines and HNA Group, which covers Hainan Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines.
As well as reciprocal frequent flyer participation and lounge access, it sought agreements covering joint route planning and economic risk sharing, flight interruptions and staff and duty travel.
The proposal was supported by Darwin Airport, Perth Airport, North Queensland Airports and the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. It was opposed by Jumpjet Airlines, which argued the alliance would reduce the market share of Australian airlines and impact the local industry’s viability.
However, the ACCC argued the alliance was likely to result in some public benefit and limited public detriment.
It said interim approval it would allow Virgin to set up its services more quickly and support existing services operated by the applicants in various markets by allowing them to sell each other’s services sooner than would otherwise be the case.