Virgin Atlantic founder and eccentric British entrepreneur Richard Branson said in a recent interview on “Your Money” that the airline is mulling a nonstop flight from London to Perth, Australia. If the plan comes to fruition, Virgin Atlantic would join Australian national carrier Qantas as the only two carriers on the route, which the third longest route in the world. Virgin Atlantic would operate the flight with the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the same as Qantas.
If the route is started, it would be an interesting move for the London-based carrier. Virgin Atlantic exited the Australian market in spring 2014 when it ended its Hong Kong to Sydney tag-on flight. However, the country has not been without the cheeky Virgin name. Virgin Australia has grown to become the second largest carrier in Australia since the merger of the domestic Virgin Blue and the international V Australia in 2011.
A move down under would also go against the recent focus on transatlantic operations for the carrier. The airline’s joint-venture agreement with Delta Air Lines has seen North America being the target for new routes, including recent additions such as flights to Seattle and Atlanta. The airline has also cut routes outside of North America, with its London-Dubai route ending in March 2019.
The route would, however, make some sense for the airline to start. Virgin Australia has grown significantly since 2014, with 19 year-round destinations from Perth and additional 12 seasonal destinations. This includes major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Although the two airlines have different ownership, they do codeshare on each other’s flights.
According to a report by The West Australian, Qantas has been experiencing nearly full flights on the flight. In the report, the airline states its average flight load is 92 percent with 94 percent of its premium cabin filling up. However, Qantas currently has a monopoly on the route, operating the only nonstop link between Australia and the United Kingdom.
Richard Branson has said the airline wants to launch Perth, “as soon as possible; however, the actuality of a flight starting is unclear. No official comment has been made by the Virgin Atlantic management team and although Richard Branson founded the airline, he is no longer on the executive team.
In addition, Virgin Atlantic, like many airlines, has had issues with its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft’s Rolls Royce engines, which has had the ability to stretch the airline thin on aircraft with Virgin returning previously stored older aircraft such as the Airbus A340-600 to the flight line. Although a Perth flight may prove successful for Virgin Atlantic, the reality of such a move is unclear.