Virgin Blue is mounting a renewed assault on regional aviation and resources markets with plans announced for it to lease up to 18 new-generation turboprop aircraft through a 10-year alliance with Perth-based Skywest Airlines.
From the ASX on Monday 10 January:
The Virgin Blue group and Skywest Airlines has signed a 10 year alliance to service regional Australia with Skywest operating up to 18 new Virgin Blue branded turbo prop aircraft to a number of existing and new destinations around Australia.
There has been a lot of speculation and rumours on various Aviation websites recently, with the new aircraft believed to be either Dash-8-Q400 or ATR-72-600 aircraft. The aircraft will be operated by Skywest but in Virgin livery under a "wet lease" agreement covering both aircraft and crew.
The new planes will be used to expand Virgin's regional reach, with speculation about some of the new destinations these aircraft could fly to. Regional centres in Central Queensland, including Emerald and Gladstone could possibly become new destinations for Virgin Blue. This is obviously a move likely to see Virgin Blue clash with QantasLink and Regional Express.
The new planes can also introduce Virgin Blue into the resources markets by allowing them to provide fly-in fly-out services to mine sites in Central Queensland.
Virgin Blue is also in talks to sell its Embraer E-170 regional jets, and the more efficient turbo-props will probably replace these on at least some existing routes.
We in anticipation for further announcements!