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Virgin Blue’s international subsidiary Pacific Blue will launch its first non-stop service from Melbourne to Auckland this morning treating inaugural Guests to a “Pasifika Style” themed flight complete with commemorative t-shirts, champagne and Pavlova (the sweet treat the Kiwis claim to have invented!).

Pacific Blue announced the new service in July, becoming the first low-cost carrier to fly the route. Commenting on today’s launch Virgin Blue’s Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey, said the airline’s entry to a new market would introduce additional competition and a new airline choice for travellers.

“Year round the Melbourne-Auckland route is a busy corridor in both directions certainly for business travellers as well as leisure travellers visiting Auckland or entering New Zealand through the Auckland gateway.

"Both cities have an exceptional calendar of major sporting, entertainment and cultural events so we're looking forward to stimulating competition which will encourage more people to fly frequently in both directions," he said.

Today’s launch flight will take off from Melbourne at 9.30am (AEST) and touch down at Auckland International Airport to a water-arch welcome at 2.45pm (NZST).

Pacific Blue’s General Manager, Commercial, Adrian Hamilton-Manns and Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff will be at the departure gate to farewell Guests on today’s flight.

Mr Hamilton-Manns said Pacific Blue was excited to be offering an affordable travel option for Aucklanders to visit Melbourne. “Melbourne is a hugely popular destination for Aucklanders for business and leisure, and now they can visit this cosmopolitan Australian city without paying a fortune, so it’s a wonderful shot in the arm for tourism in both directions.”

Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff said, “We welcome this new Melbourne to Auckland service from Pacific Blue. Passengers travelling to and from New Zealand are our largest market and this new route will help it remain so.”

Pacific Blue will be operating one of its brand new Boeing 737-800 Next Generation jets - “Maiden New Zealand” - on today’s launch flight.

In recent months Pacific Blue has also announced a range of new routes including Auckland to Melbourne and Sydney, Sydney to Vanuatu, and Brisbane to Port Moresby.

About Pacific Blue, Polynesian Blue, Virgin Blue and V Australia

Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue, along with Australian domestic airline Virgin Blue, operate a fleet of 73 modern Boeing 737 and Embraer E-Jet aircraft flying to 25 Australian and eight international destinations including New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands. Virgin Blue Group’s newest airline, V Australia, is set to commence flights between Australia and the USA from December 2008.