Virgin aligns with Qatar Airways
A WIDE-RANGING new alliance between Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways shows just how much the pandemic has changed aviation. The strategic partnership will see Virgin Australia codeshare on QR flights to about 140 global destinations, and will also provide an inbound feed for Qatar Airways passengers who will be able to fly onward to VA’s Australian domestic and short-haul international network.
Reciprocal loyalty benefits will apply, allowing points earning and burning and lounge access for top tier frequent flyers. The deal has been cemented despite Virgin Australia also having an alliance with Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways being a member of oneworld, which means reciprocal points earning and lounge benefits also apply with Qantas.
The move is part of VA’s strategy to expand its “virtual” international network through alliances with other carriers, which also includes a newly ACCC-ratified pact with United Airlines.
SAA commission cut
SOUTH African Airways has become the latest carrier to announce it will reduce BSP base commission for travel agents in Australia and NZ on flights operating from the local market – even though it does not have an international fleet capable of flying here and has not announced plans to resume its long-haul services.
Like other fork-tongued commission-cutters, SAA stressed its “ongoing commitment to working with our valued travel partners”, adding the decision was “key to our recovery strategy”.
The cut from 5% to just 1% is applicable from 01 July – the same date as the looming reduction from Qantas and other key industry suppliers.
DayAway to boost hotel yields
THE Australian launch of DayAway offers a new option for the hospitality sector to easily offer daytime experiences to outside guests, maximising the use of sometimes underutilised in-house facilities.
The technology platform was launched in Singapore last year by founder Martha Waslen, with Sydney-based Chief Commercial Officer Lynne Ireland announcing initial Australian partners including the Park Hyatt Sydney, The Langham Sydney, Jackalope Mornington Peninsula and COMO The Treasury Perth.
“We are thrilled to welcome these superb Australian properties to DayAway, and know the market will embrace the immediacy of booking, the diversity of day experiences and gifting opportunities within our collection in Australia and internationally,” she said.
Qantas picks Airbus
Qantas last month confirmed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft which will be used to operate the highly anticipated “Project Sunrise” ultra-long haul non-stop flights to Australia from anwhere in the world – including New York and London – from late 2025.
The four-class aircraft will feature 238 seats, with new cabin designs including a dedicated Wellbeing Zone for movement and stretching.
Qantas has also gone with Airbus for its narrowbody fleet renewal plans, placing firm orders for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s to replace its Boeing 737s and 717s as they are gradually retired.
MEANWHILE in a busy month for the carrier, Qantas also announced plans to acquire 100% of charter operator Alliance Aviation, which currently flies almost 20 Embraer regional jets under wet lease arrangements to QantasLink.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is reviewing the deal, which is subject to approval by shareholders under a proposed Scheme of Arrangement.
Intrepid buys into tiny house maker
INTREPID Travel last month announced a $7.85 million investment in CABN, a business which creates off-grid sustainable accommodation in some of Australia’s most stunning locations.
The partnership will see CABN expand its current 11-strong portfolio to more than 70 cabins by 2023, with Intrepid CEO James Thornton saying the firm’s offering and business model aligned with Intrepid’s move into the accommodation vertical.
“We know the CABN product is of particular interest, not only to our existing customer base, but to the growing market of travellers worldwide seeking out authentic and sustainable travel experiences,” he said.
During COVID-19 CABN saw 90%-plus occupancy rates, with the companies targeting almost seven-fold growth to 26,000 room annual room nights.
Rex cuts routes
REGIONAL Express has cited “illegal predatory behaviour” on the part of Qantas for decisions to cease operating flights between Albury and Melbourne, as well as from Sydney to Canberra.
The Albury pullout comes after 29 years of operating the route, with Rex Deputy Chairman, John Sharp, accusing QF of trying to drive out competitors in a war of attrition, “knowing that its competitors do not have the balance sheet to lose money indefinitely”.
Sharp said the return of Virgin Australia on the Canberra route was also a factor, along with high fees imposed by Sydney Airport.