Virgin Blue restructures, V Australia takes off, Emirates expands

In a week where it’s cutting 400 staff, laying up five aircraft and cutting capacity by 8%, Virgin Blue has at last received some good news with the airline’s international arm, V Australia, receiving its permit to fly.
At the same time, as other airlines around the world slash their networks and defer or cancel aircraft orders amid a sharp downturn in demand, Emirates has confirmed plans to expand its seat capacity by 14% in 2009 with the addition of 18 new passenger aircraft – all wide-bodies. Emirates Sky Cargo will increase its cargo capacity by 17% this year.
Emirates will add seven A380s, ten B777-300ERs, one B777-200LR and one B777F to its fleet next year, to add new routes and consolidate others with additional frequencies.
V Australia has been cleared for take off by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) after successfully completing all requirements and receiving its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) – the permit to operate.
The final processes to secure an AOC, which V Australia applied for in August 2007, required a number of exercises over the past fortnight including an emergency evacuation demonstration and a recent proving flight, closely monitored by CASA officials, which incorporated a mock medical emergency diversion to Auckland, New Zealand.
V Australia is the first Australian operator to receive approvals for a Boeing 777-300ER on the Australian AOC.
V Australia’s executive general manager, Scott Swift, who was on hand late this afternoon to personally receive the AOC on behalf of the elated V Australia team, said the AOC was a credit to the entire V Australia team.
“It’s amazing what a single piece of paper can signify.  What I hold in my hand is the result of three years of hard work, effort and dedication by hundreds of people across the V Australia and Virgin Blue teams.”
V Australia’s inaugural commercial flight to Los Angeles will depart from Sydney International Airport at 3pm on Friday 27 February, 2009Flights from Brisbane to Los Angeles will follow shortly after on Wednesday 8 April, 2009, with non-stop services between Melbourne and Los Angeles commencing on Tuesday 15 September, 2009.
Virgin Blue said it will try to place as many of its redundant staff at V Australia as possible, with pilots also considering job sharing and reduced hours to help minimise job losses.
Singapore-owned Regional Express (REX) has expressed an interest in Virgin Blue, saying that the airline was “undervalued and vulnerable”. REX has reportedly taken a 3% stake in Virgin Blue last week.
In the same week, Qantas has announced significant cutbacks to its services and capacity, including discontinuing loss-making services to India and China and replacing its New Zealand domestic services with a lower-cost Jetstar operation.
Singapore Airlines has also indicated it will cut services by 11%.

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