Virgin Australia hopes to be at 80 per cent capacity domestically by July, allowing it to secure more than one-third of the airline market and make a bold attempt to resume international travel.
The nation’s second largest carrier is confident vaccine rollouts will prevent further state border closures and allow the embattled airline to compete as a mid-market offering between its main rivals Jetstar and Qantas.
Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said the next few months may be bumpy, but she is confident the airline’s revamp to target customers wanting a premium experience at a lower price point will pay off once the sector revives.
“We intend to be very competitive,” Ms Hrdlicka told NCA NewsWire in Brisbane while attending the airline’s first ever pride flight for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
“We intend to have 33 per cent of the market. We will be Australia’s most loved airline.”
The Qantas rival intends to win customers over with lounges at major transit hubs and premium food and beverage offerings.
It also plans to bring back in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi across its three seating class options, which will be based on leg room.
The airline intends to roll out its new business class offering in April, along with a new food and beverage menu for economy classes.
“We’ll have the right mix of things that matter to the middle market consumer,” Ms Hrdlicka said.
The airline’s top boss, who used to be at the helm of Jetstar, said the expansion of its Velocity Frequent Flyer program would be vital, especially when the airline kickstarts short haul international routes when border restrictions ease.
“We are looking forward to short haul international flights coming back,” she said.
“It will be one of the first things we do. It will be anywhere where a (Boeing) 737 can fly, so that will include New Zealand, Fiji and Bali.”
The coronavirus pandemic hit Virgin’s bottom line hard, with the country’s second largest carrier forced to enter administration when restrictions halted travel.
Ms Hrdlicka was appointed chief executive of Virgin by private equity firm Bain Capital, which bought the company for $3.5bn after its financial troubles.
Before its administration, Virgin had close to $7bn in debt.
Ms Hrdlicka said the rollout of vaccinations would be vital to ensure the economy could rebound.
She said the recovery would be slowed if the airline industry continued to face road blocks.
“I am really hopeful the supply of vaccines will increase in volume and … we’ll get better and better at distributing,” Ms Hrdlicka said.
“If we are not able to fly as much as possible … then that slows the economic development.”
Off the back of its maiden pride flight on Friday, Ms Hrdlicka said Virgin would be an inclusive brand that welcomed passengers from a diverse range of backgrounds.