Virgin Blue


Virgin Blue

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Media Man Australia founder and director buys Crown Limited and Virgin Blue shares - 12th October 2009

Virgin Blue is an Australian ‘New World Carrier’ (NWC) and Australia's second-biggest airline. It was founded by British businessman Richard Branson's Virgin Group and is now majority controlled by Toll Holdings. It is based in Brisbane, Queensland, and is the third most profitable airline in the world, behind Brazil's GOL, and Ryanair.

History

Virgin Blue was launched on 3 August 2000, with two aircraft initially offering 7 return flights a day between Brisbane and Sydney. This has been expanded to cover all major Australian cities and many holiday destinations.

The timing of Virgin Blue's entry into the Australian market was fortunate as it was able to fill the vacuum created by the failure of Ansett in September 2001. Ansett's failure allowed Virgin Blue to grow rapidly to become Australia's second domestic carrier, rather than just a cut-price alternative to the established players. It also gave them access to terminal space without which growth would have been significantly limited. Delays in negotiating access to the former Ansett terminal at Sydney Airport however forced Virgin Blue to initially use a temporary terminal there.

Virgin Group's holding in Virgin Blue has since been reduced, initially via a sale of a half interest to Australian logistics conglomerate Patrick Corporation, and later by a public float. In early 2005 Patrick launched a hostile takeover for Virgin Blue. Patrick had been unhappy for some time with the company's direction. By the closure of the offer, Patrick held 62% of the company, giving it control. Virgin Group retains a 25% share. In May 2006 Toll Holdings acquired Patrick and became the majority owner of Virgin Blue.

Virgin Blue uses a familiar formula pioneered by airlines such as Southwest Airlines and Ryanair eliminating costs such as included in-flight meals and printed tickets in favour of selling food on-board and using telephone and internet booking systems. It has also cut costs by limiting the number of airports serviced and by operating one type of aircraft, the Boeing 737.

In September 2003, Virgin Blue announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Pacific Blue, would offer a similar cheaper service between New Zealand and mainland Australia. Pacific Blue aims to position itself as a low-cost competitor to Air New Zealand and Qantas on trans-Tasman routes. Air New Zealand also created a low-cost airline Freedom Air (which will cease service in March 2008) and Qantas deployed Jetstar on selected NZ routes. Both Qantas (through Qantas and also its wholly owned NZ subsidiary Jetconnect operating as a Qantas branded franchise) and Air NZ continue to operate these routes in their own right. In August 2007, Virgin Blue announced their intention to begin domestic Pacific Blue services within New Zealand. Flights between Auckland and Wellington, Christchurch and Wellington and Auckland and Christchurch began on November 12 2007.

Qantas responded to Virgin Blue's lower cost base by creating a new low-cost domestic carrier, Jetstar in 2004. In May 2005 Jetstar announced that it would also commence services to Christchurch, New Zealand and in 2006 many other overseas destinations.

Like other brands in the Virgin family, Virgin Blue takes an informal and humorous approach to business. On one flight, Richard Branson held a toilet paper race down the aisle of a Virgin Blue plane. Its inflight food menu is named A La Cart (a parody of the manner that food is served using a cart). However, this attitude has been reviewed[citation needed], due to the airline's recent focus on corporate customers.

From its inception in 2000, Virgin Blue did not have interline or marketing alliances with any other airline. The first exception to this was after the collapse of its domestic competitor Ansett where it began a codeshare agreement with United Airlines, which allowed United customers to fly from America to any of Virgin Blue's Australian destinations that United did not already serve. In 2006, in an effort to be more competitive with arch rival Qantas, Virgin Blue started exploring these relationships, forming frequent flyer agreements with Emirates Airline, Hawaiian Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. Virgin Blue also has an Airline Agreement with Regional Express for Regional travellers. In November 2007, the airline announced an interline deal with international carrier Garuda Indonesia, offering easy transfer from a domestic Virgin Blue flight to an international Garuda service departing from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney or Darwin.

Virgin Blue's name was the result of an open competition; it is a play on the predominantly red livery and the Australian slang tradition of calling a red-headed male 'Blue' or 'Bluey'.

New international services

In early 2006 Virgin Blue announced its intention to operate up to 7 flights a week to the US using either Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or San Francisco International Airport (SFO), saying that the route was needed to make the airline as profitable as possible. The airline has also expressed interest in flying to Japan.

They were granted approval for up to 10 flights a week from Australian regulatory bodies on July 25, 2007. They are still waiting on approval from the United States authorities.

Virgin Blue has acquired six Boeing 777-300ER aircraft from Boeing for use on international routes. They will lease a seventh aircraft from ILFC.

Naming competition

The name of Virgin Blue's international airline was decided in the same way that Virgin Blue's own name was found, with a public naming competition conducted in early June 2007.

On 25 June 2007, Virgin Blue released the 8 finalists of the naming competition. They are as follows:

* Matilda Blue
* V Australia Airlines
* Australia Blue
* Virgin Pacific
* Amelia Blue
* Didgeree Blue
* Liberty Blue
* Virgin Australia

Australia Blue and Virgin Pacific were early favourites to win the competition, despite a problem with the latter, as Singapore Airlines (through their stake in Virgin Atlantic) have control over the use of the 'Virgin' name on International air routes, and have not, in the past, allowed its use.

On July 25, 2007, it was announced by Virgin Blue that "V Australia" will be the name of the new carrier.

Services are scheduled to begin in the second half of 2008.

Fleet

The average age of the Virgin Blue fleet is 3.9 years as of April 2006.

Initially Virgin Blue leased their aircraft but recent additions to the fleet have generally been purchased outright. Virgin Blue owned aircraft are indicated by the Boeing customer code FE.

In June 2006, Virgin Blue placed an order for 9 Boeing 737-800 by exercising purchase rights it held. Delivery of the aircraft is scheduled to begin in 2008.

In November 2006, Virgin Blue announced plans to purchase 11 Embraer 190 and three Embraer 170 aircraft with options for six more E-Jets, which later became orders for 3 Embraer 170s and 3 Embraer 190s. These options are now exercised taking the total firm orders to 14 X E-190 and 6 x E170. Virgin Blue also holds another 3 options and 17 purchase rights on E-jets and have announced their intentions to possibly take the total fleets size to 40 E-jets if they perform to expectations.

In January 2007, German newspaper Börsen Zeitung told of information that Virgin Blue is in the final stages of buying a brand new fleet of long distance Airbus or Boeing aircraft. This is to start new routes between Australia and long haul destinations in response to Jetstar recently starting long distance international routes. On February 19, 2007 Virgin Blue announced it had exercised the options for the additional Embraer E-Jets. In March 2007 Virgin Blue announced it would purchase six Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and lease a seventh, to be used on long-haul routes to the United States.

Like "big brother" Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Blue gives its planes imaginative and amusing names. Each aircraft also features a "virgin girl" as nose art, complete with a wide-brimmed Aussie hat, trailing an Australian flag.

Blue received its first Embraer 170 in early September 2007 at a special ceremony at the Embraer plant in Sao Jose dos Campos.

On October 24 Virgin announced that they will be introducing a Premium Economy service on all domestic flights. The first three rows of each aircraft will feature red leather seats that can be converted to a 2 x 2 Premium Economy configuration, or to Virgin's regular 3 x 3 economy configuration. The Premium Economy service will include an increased seat pitch and baggage allowance, priority boarding, access to The Lounge, as well as complimentary live2air in-flight entertainment. Because the seating configuration on the Embraer aircraft is already 2 x 2, the amount of seats on these flights will remain unchanged, but they still will carry the new Premium Economy product.

Incidents and accidents

In December 2005 a Virgin Blue Boeing 737-700 was flying from Townsville to Brisbane when a cockpit window cracked. The plane made an emergency landing at Brisbane Airport. Due to the rapid descent some passengers suffered ear discomfort and other minor injuries.

In August 2007 a Virgin Blue Boeing 737 was flying from Brisbane to Hamilton Island when an engine was stopped. The plane made an emergency landing at Rockhampton Airport. It was a safe landing and no injuries were recorded.

The Lounge
Virgin Blue's The Lounge

To capture a share of the business traveller market, Virgin Blue decided to provide a members lounge facility for travellers. Originally this was called The Blue Room and provided facilities to members and guests on a pay-as-you-go basis.

In 2006, Virgin Blue revamped the lounge facilities and renamed it The Lounge, which offers all-inclusive facilities for a membership fee or casual fee basis. Facilities that are provided include buffet food and refreshments, newspapers, computers, and WiFi internet access for travellers.

Currently they are located at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra airports.

Live2Air

In December 2006, Virgin Blue announced a partnership between Australian cable television providers Foxtel and Austar, to introduce a "Live2Air" service on all flights by mid 2007. Approximately half the fleet had been fitted with Live2Air facilities by March 2007.

Virgin Blue was the first carrier outside North America to introduce multi-channel real-time satellite TV to its flights.

The Live2Air service costs customers $5 per flight sector during an 'introductory period'. Following the 'introductory period', the service will cost $5 on flights under 2 hours and $10 on flights over 2 hours. The only payment method is via an in-seat credit card swipe facility. Debit cards cannot be used.

Sponsorship and marketing

On 8 February 2007, it was announced that Virgin Blue had signed a two year sponsorship deal with NRL team South Sydney Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs are the first rugby league team Virgin Blue has sponsored. Boeing 737-800 VH-VUA has slight changes to its livery to commemorate this sponsorship. The Australian flag held by the 'Virgin Girl' replaced with the Rabbitohs flag.

For the 2007 Super 14 season, Virgin Blue is the sleeve sponsor for Queensland Reds.

Virgin Blue is also the official sponsor of the (Australian) National Basketball League (NBL), and the title sponsor of NBL team the Brisbane Bullets. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Virgin Blue

Press Release

VIRGIN BLUE joins forces with FOXTEL, AUSTAR for A NEW ERA FOR AUSTRALIAN IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

Australia's award winning low fare airline Virgin Blue has just got even better. The carrier has joined forces with Australia's leading subscription television providers FOXTEL and AUSTAR and LiveTV of the United States to introduce an exciting new generation of “LIVE” satellite TV in-flight entertainment.

Over a million people fly Virgin Blue each month and from the comfort of their own seat, they will be able to watch live television news and premium sporting events at 40,000 feet, along with a selection of the best comedy, lifestyle, children’s, music, documentaries and general entertainment channels provided by FOXTEL and AUSTAR.

These new services will be broadcast live via satellite to the aircraft and displayed on individual, back-of-seat screens that will be available to all Guests.

Called “Live2Air”, the services will offer the choice of 24 FOXTEL and AUSTAR channels, including Sky News Australia, CNN, THE COMEDY CHANNEL, FOX SPORTS 1 and 2 and Nickelodeon, that will cost no more than $5 for unlimited use during the entire flight.

Virgin Blue has worked with the US technology provider LiveTV for more than a year and has executed a letter of intent with LiveTV to be the first airline outside North America to harness the innovation, which will be delivered under a licence with Virgin Blue that is exclusive to the region.

Virgin Blue, FOXTEL and AUSTAR will begin phasing in the new technology by mid next year subject to regulatory approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

In the meantime the service will be demonstrated in Virgin Blue airport lounges to allow Blue Room visitors a glimpse into the future of in-flight entertainment.

Virgin Blue Chief Executive Brett Godfrey said,”We simply couldn’t wait for the future; “Live2Air” is a generational leap forward in on-board entertainment. When we launched the airline over four years ago, it was our intent to offer this product but the technology literally wasn’t in orbit over Australia to offer real-time broadcasts. Now that the technology and satellite coverage is available from FOXTEL and AUSTAR we are excited to be the first and only airline in the Southern Hemisphere to take in-flight entertainment to a whole new level.”

“This LIVE seatback TV initiative will position Virgin Blue as the market leader for in-flight entertainment and we will continue to ensure we provide our Guests with more options to maximise their flying pleasure.”

This exciting new technology will be implemented so as not to impact Virgin Blue’s low cost base and its ability to remain Australia’s high quality low fare leader.

Brett Godfrey added, “Being pay per use, this innovation is in line with our long term strategy of providing user-pays options to improve our already award winning service without compromising our bottom line. Our peers, JetBlue, West Jet and Frontier have seen great success with the introduction of satellite TV onboard. We expect ”Live2Air” to actually enhance yield by attracting new Guests who want to see the news as it happens and appreciate being entertained with their choice of content in the air.”

FOXTEL Chief Executive Kim Williams said that FOXTEL was delighted to bring the expanded choice and exclusive content it offers television viewers at home to travellers on Virgin Blue.

“Watching live sport, catching the breaking news or the stock market close as you fly will be a totally new and unique experience in Australia,” Mr Williams said.

“FOXTEL is at the forefront of innovation in television and this is an important and very exciting development for us, our subscription television colleagues, and most particularly consumers.”

CEO of AUSTAR John Porter said “Just as AUSTAR is about innovation, value and choice, this new Virgin Blue venture will give Australians access to quality programming whether they’re at home or in the sky.”

“Whether you are in regional, rural or metropolitan Australia, you can benefit from this exciting new technological advance,” Mr Porter said.

Busy business travellers will be able to catch up on news of the day on Sky News Australia or CNN live instead of pre-recorded news, or chill out with some music videos or a comedy, while Guests on longer flights will be able to fit in a documentary or a classic movie or TV series.

Flying with children will also become an easier experience for parents with the option of a range of children’s channels to entertain them.

Sports fans will be able to watch their favourite team live in action on the range of sport channels while in the air.

The full suite of channels that will be available on “Live2Air” is:
Business/News Entertainment/Music Sports
Sky News Australia THE COMEDY CHANNEL FOX SPORTS 1
FOX News The History Channel FOX SPORTS 2
CNN UKTV FOX Footy Channel
FOX Classics FUEL
Children/Educational MAX
Nickelodeon The LifeStyle Channel
Nick Jr. Discovery Travel & Adventure Channel
Boomerang Animal Planet
How To Channel LifeStyle FOOD
FOX8
Channel [V]
Club [V]
Arena TV

Virgin Blue
Award winning airline Virgin Blue and sister carrier Pacific Blue currently operate a fleet of 49 modern Boeing 737 aircraft flying to 21 destinations across metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as four International destinations taking in New Zealand, Vanuatu and Fiji. For Virgin Blue bookings log on to www.virginblue.com.au or call 13 6789. For Pacific Blue bookings log on to www.flypacificblue.com or call 13 1645 from Australia or 0800 670 000 from New Zealand.

FOXTEL
FOXTEL is Australia's leading subscription television provider and is connected to more than 1.1 million homes on cable and satellite through retail and wholesale distribution. FOXTEL is owned by Telstra Corporation Ltd (50%), The News Corporation Ltd (25%), and Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (25%). FOXTEL launched its new digital cable and satellite service in March 2004.

Austar United Communications (AUSTAR) www.austarunited.com.au
AUSTAR (Australian Stock Exchange “AUN”) is a leading provider of subscription television services in Australia, providing principally satellite delivered services to regional and rural Australia. AUSTAR also offers mobile telephone and internet services. AUSTAR’s 50% owned joint venture, XYZnetworks, is a significant program provider in the Australian market and owns and/or distributes Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, Discovery, Channel [V], Club [V], MAX, Arena, The Lifestyle Channel, Lifestyle Food., CountryMusic Channel and The Weather Channel to over 1.2 million subscribers. In addition, AUSTAR was the first company in Australia to launch digital interactive television.

About LiveTV
LiveTV is an innovative provider of in-flight entertainment products and services such as DIRECTV®, Bell ExpressVu, XM Satellite Radio, wireless aircraft data link services, and cabin surveillance systems for commercial aircraft. LiveTV is the largest provider of satellite TV systems to commercial airlines. The LiveTV system includes individual seatback monitors at every seat, armrest mounted channel, brightness, and volume controls that allow passengers to select from up to 36 channels of satellite programming.
LiveTV is a wholly owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways Corporation (NASDAQ JBLU).

For more information, visit LiveTV on the World Wide Web at www.livetvifs.com

For further information:

Amanda Bolger
Public & Media Relations Mgr
Virgin Blue – ph 0402 137 071

Mark Furness
Director of Corporate Affairs
FOXTEL – ph (02) 9200 1733

Emma Rackley
Corporate Affairs Manager
AUSTAR – ph 0422 823 000

Press Release

21 March 2007
Virgin Blue goes green

Wednesday 21 March 2007: Virgin Blue has today become the first airline in Australia to have a comprehensive and certified carbon offset program that forms part of its integrated strategy to address environmental impact issues, including greenhouse gas emissions.

The program, which has been certified by the Australian Government under the Australian Greenhouse Office's Greenhouse Friendly™ initiative, provides the airline and its Guests with the opportunity to neutralise emissions.

From today, Guests on Virgin Blue can offset their flights for as little as $1. Monies collected via the optional carbon offset program will be used to purchase abatement from projects in Australia and New Zealand.

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for the Environment, joined Virgin Blue Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey and Howard Bamsey, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Water Resources, to launch the program in Canberra today.

Virgin Blue Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey said, "As an airline company, we are well aware of the challenge to balance the demand and growth of air travel while at the same time actively working to reduce aircraft emissions. The introduction of this program is a significant step in the right direction and one we hope other airlines will follow."

"We see our Carbon Offset Program as a step towards creating a sustainable aviation environment. This is a global issue requiring a global response and we believe all airlines around the world, not just in Australia, need to view it as a shared responsibility and act swiftly and today's announcement shows that we are very keen to play our role in this."

"The introduction of this program is in response to the enquiries from our Guests, corporate clients and encouragement from our own team members", Brett Godfrey said.

Offsetting flights on Virgin Blue will occur by purchasing abatement from the Australian Greenhouse Office Approved Greenhouse Friendly™ Abatement Projects. While offsetting on Pacific Blue or Polynesian Blue flights, will occur by purchasing abatement from Gold Standard projects in New Zealand that are endorsed by the New Zealand Government.

The Virgin Blue Carbon offset program involves two key elements.

• Guests who travel on Virgin Blue flights will have the option of voluntarily offsetting their share of carbon emissions generated from the flight. They will be offered the opportunity during the flight booking process to contribute towards Australian Greenhouse Office approved abatement projects including such initiatives as forestry activities, energy efficiency measures, waste diversion and recycling and generation of renewable energy; and

• Virgin Blue, with the enthusiastic support of its management and Board, has made a financial commitment to offset the greenhouse impacts of its own crew and staff travelling on company business. This financial commitment, expected to be in the vicinity of AUD $500,000 annually, will then be channelled into abatement projects aimed at long term and permanent greenhouse gas reductions.

Virgin Blue's team had been investigating the potential for the airline to become involved in the Greenhouse FriendlyTM program since March last year and is proud to be the first Australian airline and first transportation organisation in the country to be officially certified as "Greenhouse Friendly".

Virgin Blue also announced it has signed up for the Australian Greenhouse Challenge Plus Program, joining nearly 800 other companies committed to improving energy efficiencies and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Virgin Blue will measure, monitor and report on its overall emissions as it aims to reduce them year on year.

Brett Godfrey added, "The Australian Government Greenhouse Friendly initiative and the Greenhouse Challenge Plus Programme are further steps in our overall environmental plan. We already operate a fleet of the latest 737 NG aircraft and have implemented strategies to reduce fuel burn via more efficient flight planning and aircraft weight reduction. We also participate in recycling activities from computers to Christmas cards and will continue to work with other agencies to help further protect the environment."


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Media Man Australia does not represent Virgin Blue

Media Man Australia does not represent Richard Branson

Media Man Australia does not represent Brett Godfrey

Media Man Australia has assisted Virgin Blue in a publicity capacity and participates on online b2b advertising and exposure for a number of Virgin Enterprises Limited entities