Straight from The Age:
Virgin opens Melbourne-Los Angeles route
December 1, 2009 - 1:26PM
There were roller girls in denim hotpants, a conga band belting out rhythms, a slew of celebrities and a lone State Government minister in the international departures area of Melbourne airport this morning to send off Virgin’s fledgling long haul carrier, V Australia, on its inaugural flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles.
Flight VA011 to Los Angeles was scheduled to depart at 11.45am today, due in LA at 7.15 tomorrow morning.
The twice weekly service is non-stop and is expected to add 75,000 seats a year between the two cities.
Virgin airlines group chief executive Brett Godfrey said direct services were what people want.
“They don’t want to go via Sydney, they don’t want to go via Brisbane,” he said. "It brings more jobs and more security to Victoria because the inbound element (passengers) cannot be underestimated.
“This is also the third Virgin group airline to service Melbourne.”
Tourism minister Tim Holding said direct flights were “absolutely fantastic”.
“If tourists can get to Melbourne without having to stop over in other places, then they more likely to come and stay longer,” Mr Holding said.
Unlike the Virgin Blue domestic airline, Mr Godfrey described V Australia’s offering as a “premium long haul service”.
“We’re very grateful for the fact that the plane is bloody full, so that’s exceptional as well,” he said.
Celebrities offered seats on the inaugural flight included Olympic swimmer Michael Klim and his wife Lindy, Miss Universe Australia and budding Masterchef Rachael Finch and former Video Smash Hits host turned rock musician host Axle Whitehead.
It’s the first phase of V Australia’s route expansion, with Melbourne-Phuket (Thailand) starting Thursday and Melbourne-Johannesburg (South Africa) starting in March.
V Australia spokesman Simon Swift said that passenger modelling done had shown there was sufficient demand for the Johannesburg route.
Presently Qantas offers Johannesburg direct flights from Sydney (14 hours flying time) and as a codeshared flight by South African Airways from Perth, routes that V Australia had no interest in competing against Qantas, he said.
Melbourne Airport’s corporate development manager Damian Tkalec said the V Australia service was a good sign for the airport, which had recently won the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation’s award for being a low cost airport.
"V Australia is the 24th international airline to service Melbourne Airport.
"Over 90,000 passengers a year fly domestically from Melbourne to Sydney to get across to the USA.
“Transferring through Sydney is a real drag, and who’d want to do it if you can avoid it?” he said.
flightaware.com/live/flight/VAU1 … /YMML/KLAX