Virgin Blue rebranded its short-haul operations Virgin Australia today (04-May-2011), with a new livery, brand and product as it takes the battle to its larger rival and increase its share of Australia’s corporate travel market (The Australian, 04-May-2011). Virgin Blue Group CEO John Borghetti and Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson unveiled a B737 and A330 at Sydney Airport, which carry the airline's new livery and the narrowbody aircraft version of its business class. Hans Hulsbosch, who has also worked extensively with Qantas, was responsible for the new branding, which will unite the fragmented branding of the company, which was split between Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue, and make the airline more appealing to the higher yielding a less price elastic corporate market. The newly repainted aircraft in Sydney show the airline has dropped the red livery and opted for an all white design, with the tail carrying the Virgin logo on a white background.
Virgin Blue rebrands as Virgin Australia
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South Pacific aviation markets will be defined by China’s expansion
The nature of the South Pacific's geography makes finding the right partners for its airlines essential for their survival in international long haul markets – as most are.
The region is characterised by relatively liberal access regimes and by partnerships of varying levels – in New Zealand especially, where Air New Zealand’s international network is dominated by JVs. Virgin Australia has built a ‘virtual alliance’ alongside HNA, Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Delta, with very little of its own metal flying outside Australia. At Qantas Group, international performance has improved markedly following its Emirates partnership, as its operating focus has shifted from Europe toward Asia and North America, with local JVs, and close partnerships with American Airlines and China Eastern continuing to grow and mature.
For all airlines in the region, the China market will define much of the growth over the coming decade. (This report is taken from the Jul/Aug-2016 issue of CAPA's Airline Leader)
HNA/Hainan stake in Virgin Australia its most significant acquisition yet; & a smart move by Virgin
HNA/Hainan Airlines' 13% stake in Virgin Australia for USD114 million expands HNA's equity airline network outside mainland China to nine airlines on five continents – two airlines more than Etihad has invested in. Even once HNA grows the Virgin Australia stake to 19.99%, as it intends, it will not be HNA's largest in equity or percentage; but it is the most momentous and strategically important yet. It is accompanied by a strategic alliance, subject to approval, through which Virgin Australia will fly to mainland China and Hong Kong.
HNA's past investments have either not met their originally anticipated strategic value (Aigle Azur) or are airlines (Africa World, Comair) that do not have HNA services and are unlikely to be significant in the near future. HNA's Virgin stake is different: Australia is China's largest outbound long haul market after the US but Hainan has had a limited presence. Hainan has previously focused on the US market while regulatory constraints (in both mainland China and Hong Kong) and lack of partnerships have restricted growth.