Virgin America and V Australia, both extensions of Richard Branson's Virgin empire, have signed an interline agreement that will allow passengers to travel on both carriers between the U.S. and Australia. Travelers can already book interline flights through V Australia's phone center at 800-444-0260 for flights beginning June 8. Online bookings will be available on June 8 as well, but only through V Australia.
The joint announcement touts a "seamless 'Virgin' experience" as a major benefit to the deal, with Virgin's trademark mood lighting and seat-back entertainment systems. But as someone who might make the long flight from Boston to Australia next year, I'm more intrigued by the increase in competition this move brings.
With Delta launching daily service between Los Angeles and Sydney July 1, and the Virgin America/V combo taking to the skies even sooner than that, customers will be faced with a wide array of choices that will hopefully lead to lower fares. In fact, with so many carriers now flying between the U.S. and Australia, the route is becoming less and less profitable for the airlines that fly it.
The one downside to Virgin and V's tie-up, of course, is that Virgin America only serves a handful of destinations. But let's face it: None of Virgin America's low-cost rivals can offer connecting flights to Australia, which means this move gives Virgin a small but unique advantage over its competitors. If fares from the few destinations Virgin serves stay competitive, it's hard to see this as anything other than a win for customers.