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Virgin Blue Signs First Global Travel Distribution Deal


Airline Making Inroads in Key Government and Corporate Markets

Virgin Blue today confirmed it has signed a distribution arrangement with Sabre Inc., one of the worlds leading providers of technology, distribution and marketing services for the travel industry, with terminals in over 61,000 travel agencies in 112 countries.

The agreement allows Virgin Blue to address the needs of major corporate travel management companies, inbound tour operators and international airlines, while continuing to maintain affordable airfares to its direct customers and retail travel agencies who can continue to book via the low cost, web based Open Skies System.

With more than two thirds of direct sales and over half of travel agent sales generated through the net, Virgin Blue is second only to the UK’s low fare carrier EasyJet, when it comes to Internet bookings.

The new Sabre system connection will give international airlines and overseas travel agents access to Virgin Blue's seats, better addressing the needs of the Australian inbound tourism market.

International traffic using Virgin Blue services has grown tremendously since the collapse of Ansett and Virgin Blue is now in discussions with a number of international carriers to identify ways in which their domestic needs can be met by the low fare airline.

The new distribution channel will also support the needs of the many corporate customers that Virgin Blue has signed up in recent months.

Jon Marshall, Virgin Blue National Sales Manager said, "Since September, we have seen a dramatic increase in sales to major corporations who have chosen Virgin Blue to meet their travel needs including Boral, Origin Energy and P&O-Nedlloyd. These organisations have clearly recognised that their shareholders are more concerned about affordable airfares than frequent flyer programs, re-heated meals and having their executives jostling for celery sticks in airport lounges."

He continued, "Virgin Blue has also secured key State travel agreements in Queensland and South Australia with a commitment to provide government travellers with increased flight options and friendly, reliable service, while reducing their travel spend. Earlier this month, Virgin Blue opened its first government account in Canberra with the High Court of Australia, establishing the first crack in Qantas’s high-priced stranglehold on taxpayer financed federal government travel."

With Virgin Blue recently winning a number of service awards, both domestically and internationally, the airline has clearly established itself as Australia's leading carrier when it comes to service, and has now demonstrated it is able to address all major market segments in the wake of the Ansett collapse.

Virgin Blue currently services every state and territory in the country. The airline recently announced an $8.2-million trading profit for the half year ending September and is currently expanding its fleet of brand new Next Generation Boeing 737 aircraft. By the end of 2002, Virgin Blue expects to double its fleet size from 15 to 30 aircraft.

Note to the travel trade press:
The Sabre system link will display Y class seats only domestically as well as private fares negotiated with government agencies and larger corporate customers. Special inbound fares will be displayed in certain overseas markets. A number of major corporate travel agencies have volunteered to help launch the program and trials will begin in early February with full system rollout expected thirty days later. Fares sold through the Sabre system will be offered on a net basis with no commissions to avoid the costs associated with participation in the BSP. With over 50% of travel agency bookings now made on the net, Virgin Blue expects most travel agents in the retail trade to continue booking with net based WebAgent to obtain their standard commission. Further enhancements to WebAgent are expected in the coming months. Ongoing discussions are being held with other GDS providers to include their services after the Sabre rollout is complete.