1 March 2011 | In a bid to become a more powerful, direct competitor to Qantas, Australia’s Virgin Blue is transforming itself from a cheerful low-cost carrier into a full-service business and leisure airline with a low cost base. With the remake, Virgin Blue wants to double its share of Australia’s corporate travel market from 10 to 20 percent and cut its reliance on leisure travel in the process, as competition from other low-cost airlines, such as Jetstar (part of Qantas) and Tiger (50% owned by Singapore Airlines), is driving down leisure fares. Virgin Blue’s earlier attempts to target the business market, with for example a premium economy class, has left the airline somewhat stuck in the middle.
As part of what Virgin Blue has dubbed a ‘Game Change Program’, the airline has recently announced a series of initiatives that seriously upgrades its product. As Australian Business Traveller nicely summarizes it: “There’s a seismic shift happening at Virgin Blue. A new name, new logo and new brand. New planes with new livery. New business class seats, new cabins and new lounges. New routes. New alliances with partner airlines. New uniforms”. The catalyst for the changes at Virgin Blue has been the appointment in May 2010 of John Borghetti, formerly Qantas’ executive general manager.
First of all, Virgin Blue will reveil a new brand name by June 2011, which is expected to be either Virgin Australia or V Australia. The airline’s creative director Hans Hulsbosch recently told The Australian that while the Virgin brand would continue to anchor the airline, Blue would no longer be part of the brand. Research has found that as Virgin moved to capture the business-class market, its brand was being held back by perceptions among business travelers that it was purely a budget airline. Furthermore, Virgin Blue wants to consolidate its fragmented brands – Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue, Polynesian Blue and V Australia – which is the result of an agreement between Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines (which owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic) that prevents the Virgin brand being used outside Australia.
Virgin Blue’s new uniforms perhaps best illustrates the airline’s transformation from a cheerful low-cost airline into a full-service carrier targetting business travellers. Created by Project Runway Australia winner Juli Grbac, the new red, silver and purple unifoms are remarkably reminiscent of Virgin Atlantic’s chic and classy style, and replace Virgin Blue’s current more casual outfit.
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