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Public Support For Virgin In Canberra Soars Despite Virtual Qantas Monopoly On Taxpayer Travel

12/12/2003

Virgin Blue has announced it will increase capacity in and out of Canberra following on-going demand and strong forward bookings for existing flights to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Melbourne.


From February 2004, the low fare leader will launch extra flights to all three destinations to keep pace with the travel needs of those keen to take advantage of affordable flights and Virgin’s friendly service.


The new flights will take the number of daily Canberra flights on peak days to 9 and represents a 27% increase in capacity for the Canberra market.


The enhanced schedule includes:


Canberra-Brisbane


An increase from 2 direct daily flights to 3 direct flights per day with a new evening departure from Brisbane back to Canberra to allow both business and government travel Guests a full day in the Queensland capital to go about their business. The 8pm departure also allows people to get the most out of their Queensland holidays.

Fares from $99* one-way on the net (Mid-week Mini-Fare available Tues/Weds).

More convenient connections to Cairns, Townsville and Mackay.

Canberra-Gold Coast


Virgin Blue recently launched a weekly direct flight between Canberra and the Gold Coast that has proven hugely popular with leisure travellers heading north for some surf and sunshine.

Due to strong support, the airline will increase the number of weekly flights from 1 to 3, with the new flights taking off on Monday and Wednesday as well as the existing Saturday flight.

The schedule has been developed to allow travellers to maximise their holiday time with an evening flight in both directions.

Virgin Blue is the only carrier offering direct flights between Canberra and the Gold Coast.

Fares from $99* one-way on the net (Mid-Week Mini-Fare available Tues/Weds).

Canberra-Melbourne


Direct flights increase from 2 to 3 daily flights to Melbourne with a new early morning flight from Canberra to Melbourne to suit our increasing number of business travellers with a true Melbourne business day. The new schedule offers more connections to Hobart, Perth, Launceston, Sunshine Coast and Adelaide and also is in response to the strong preference of the local market to fly an aircraft that starts the day in Canberra to minimise the delays related to fog at certain times of the year.

More flights on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Virgin Blue will operate 4 daily flights between Canberra & Melbourne to cater for increased demand on these peak days.

Breaking the Qantas Monopoly on Commonwealth Travel


Despite lengthy discussions between Virgin Blue and the Commonwealth Government about breaking the Qantas monopoly on public service travel, an independent report to the Prime Minister's Department has confirmed that public servants have shunned best value for taxpayers' money fares offered by Virgin Blue on major routes, such as Sydney to Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane. It confirmed that less than one per cent of public service travel is on Virgin Blue. "That is a scandal when Virgin Blue has around 30% of the domestic aviation market, including substantial corporate traffic which should have the same needs and expectations as the Commonwealth, " said David Huttner, Head of Strategy and Communication.


This week's Cabinet decision to make minor changes to the status quo ignores the fact that it continues to protect the perks of 20% of the market requiring business class travel and lounges, at the expense of meeting the requirements of 80% of Commonwealth travel in economy class. "Even though the Government plans to continue to look at this issue, it has just written a further blank cheque for Qantas," said David Huttner.


Because of the failure by government to redress that monopoly, Virgin Blue has decided to suspend one of its two services from Canberra to Sydney each day and re-deploy it to routes supported by people, including Commonwealth employees not on official business, such as Brisbane and Melbourne. If the Commonwealth Gobernment moves to scrap that monopoly, then Virgin Blue will restore that service.


"Despite the Government's failure to address that situation, Virgin Blue has decided to increase its flights to and from Canberra to better meet the needs of the tourism, small business and private sector flyers who are supporting the low fare airline, " he said.


Canberra-Sydney services are now focused on a Canberra originating aircraft every morning with an evening return. The schedule gives ACT residents a full day in Sydney, while the evening return from Sydney offers tourists a quick weekend getaway to the Australian capital, as well as the Snowy Mountains. This also gives the people of Canberra more convenient connections to Brisbane, Alice Springs, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Cairns and Perth.


David Huttner added “It is ironic that the people of Canberra are supporting us so well that we have been able to announce today’s additional services, yet the Government seems unable to make use of the same good value. The suggestion that a few public servants have been compelled to try another airline when flying to Sydney, does not cover the fact that when we offered fares as low as $49 the planes did often fill up, yet there was virtually no-one onboard whose ticket was paid for from the public purse. Clearly that demonstrated that something is fundamentally flawed in the way the Government conducts its business”


He continued, “ We have made it clear to the government that the minimal reforms thus far do not represent value for taxpayers' money and will not lead to a sustainable market for government travel, be it with us or any other airline. We look forward to the Government introducing substantial reforms to its travel management practices so as to ensure taxpayers get a better deal.”


Despite having carrying less than 1% of Commonwealth Government traffic the low fare airline will soon be offering over 25% of the total capacity into the nation’s capital.


The additional flights to Brisbane, Melbourne and the Gold Coast will mean the airline will now be “over-nighting” two aircraft and two crews in Canberra for the first time, ensuring on-time morning departures throughout the year.


Virgin Blue currently has a fleet of 40 Boeing 737 aircraft flying between 20 destinations nationally. It has recently launched ‘Pacific Blue’, its New Zealand based sister airline that is due to begin services between Christchurch and Brisbane on 29 January 2004. For Virgin Blue bookings log on to www.virginblue.com.au or call 13 6789.