Virgin Blue will from now on operate its domestic services as Virgin Australia, and the group’s international carriers will also take on the new name by the end of the year after a complex branding dispute involving Singapore Airlines was ironed out.
An agreement was reached recently with Singapore Airlines over the use of the Virgin brand, a Virgin Australia spokeswoman tells AviationWeek. Before this deal, Virgin Blue could not have the Virgin brand on its international operations, due to a commitment made by major Virgin Blue stakeholder Richard Branson when Singapore Airlines bought 49% of Virgin Atlantic in 2000.
This restriction meant the Virgin Blue Group’s international carriers were labeled V Australia and Pacific Blue. But now almost all of the former Virgin Blue carriers can be brought under the Virgin Australia umbrella. The only exception, for now, will be Polynesian Blue, which is a joint venture with the Samoan government and only involves a single aircraft.
Branson was in Sydney May 4 to help launch the new name, along with the group’s CEO John Borghetti. A Boeing 737-800 and an Airbus A330-200 arrived at Sydney International Airport bearing the new livery.
Repainting the entire fleet with the new livery will take about four years, the Virgin Australia spokeswoman. This represents an acceleration of the regular repainting cycle, which would normally take eight years.
As well as the new livery, the relaunch includes new cabin interiors. Almost all of the 737 fleet will have the new interior – which will incorporate a business class – by the end of this year. Virgin Australia has previously estimated the rebranding effort will cost AU$30-$35 million ($32.6-$38 million), and the carrier remains “comfortable with that forecast,” the spokeswoman says.
Borghetti says the “consolidation of the brand into one was a pivotal point” in Virgin Blue’s broader transformation plan. The carrier is spreading its international presence through joint ventures with major international carriers, and is expanding its regional operation. It aims to capture a larger share of the corporate and business market.