16 August 2010

Pacific Blue Away

Pacific Blue is to exit its New Zealand domestic operations as part of a wider review of its network. The airline will also boost trans-Tasman services and generally increase its Australian services to South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Virgin Blue Group of Airlines chief executive John Borghetti said the ongoing network review was aimed at delivering increased competition and capturing growth opportunities. "As we enter a new era for Virgin Blue it is vital that we have the right aircraft on the right routes if we are to fully exploit our competitive advantages in the context of the Group's three core business: domestic short haul, international medium haul and international long haul. We are adding capacity to routes with strong revenue potential and accordingly, removing capacity from services which are underperforming," he said. Pacific Blue will cease flying New Zealand domestic routes and redeploy two Boeing 737-800 New Zealand-based aircraft on to trans-Tasman and medium haul international routes. These aircraft have 180 seats. The New Zealand domestic network includes Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown and Auckland with 106 flights a week, including twice daily services from Christchurch to Wellington and Christchurch to Auckland. "Guests holding forward bookings on New Zealand domestic routes from 18 October onward will be provided with re-accommodation and refund options,'' Borghetti said. Growing capacity on trans-Tasman routes was a positive step that would see an increase in New Zealand-based staff, he said. Pacific Blue currently employs around 450 New Zealanders at crew bases in Christchurch and Auckland and its head office in Christchurch and the increase in international flying means up to 100 new jobs would be created. Virgin Blue is the 100 per cent owner of Pacific Blue, and in turn is owned by major shareholder of Virgin Group, co-founder CEO Brett Godfrey, Virgin Blue staff and other shareholders. Founder Richard Branson is president of Virgin Blue. Separately, Pacific Blue and national airline Air New Zealand have proposed an alliance on trans- Tasman services. Both airlines operate on the Tasman and have applied to regulators to combine their networks to better compete against Qantas and Jetstar. Key route and frequency changes:

* From September 17 Dunedin to Brisbane services will increase from three to four flights a week

* From October 31 Christchurch to Melbourne will increase from four flights per week to a daily service.

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