Virgin Atlantic eyeing Perth to London flights
With Qantas being the only airline that serves the Perth to London route, Virgin Atlantic is currently looking at making a change to this by eyeing the route themselves.
Founder of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson, has told media outlets that he intends to launch the route as quickly as he can.
Qantas has been busy bragging about their load factors reaching anywhere from 92-94% across their aircraft on the route, so Sir Richard Branson wants to step in and make a change to that. Virgin Atlantic has the same aircraft that Qantas uses on the route – the Boeing 787-9 – but has them configured in a different way.
Compared to Qantas’ 236 seats installed, Virgin Atlantic has 264 fitted in their Boeing 787-9, which might restrict the range. Qantas put in a lot of weight saving efforts to their aircraft, such as specially designed cutlery and crockery, reduction of magazines, special meal carts etc. With Virgin’s 787-9s already set up, they might have to block some seats to make the flight work.
Rather than being powered by General Electric GEnx engines, Virgin Atlantic has their Boeing 787s powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000s, which are currently suffering from unfortunate corrosion issues, which has forced the airline into grounding some aircraft.
This begs the question as to whether Virgin Atlantic can reliably and/or safely cross that distance. ETOPS limitations are currently in place because of the engine issues, making route selection difficult. Of course Rolls-Royce will come to terms with the engine and offer airlines with a great performer but for now, things are still developing.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time Virgin Atlantic has looked at this route. In 2003, the airline had their leadership team discuss the idea of bringing in some used Airbus A340-500s from Air Canada, which could operate the route. Singapore Airlines was using the same aircraft on their ultra-long haul flights but dropped it due to increasing fuel costs. This route has since been restarted with the newer Airbus A350-900ULR, which you can read about here.
Virgin Atlantic’s very first Airbus A350-1000, MSN 274, has only recently rolled out of final assembly with a white tail. The idea of potentially converting some of these frames or ordering more of the long range variant also unlocks countless possibilities for competing with long routes like Perth to London. Alternatively, the airline could also introduce the competing aircraft for the A350, the Boeing 777x.
A determined mind gets places so with the stakes being high on being the UK-Australia leader, Virgin Atlantic will surely come up with something that will either give Qantas a run for their money or end up as a flop.