Boeing strike delays launch of V Australia

Saturday, October 4, 2008, 7:30 by Aviation Correspondent

The ongoing strike by machinists of Boeing Company has forced Virgin Blue to put off the launch of its V Australia trans-Pacific service, which was planned for December 15, 2008.

Boeing’s 27,000 machinists, who represent 16% of the company’s workforce, went on strike on September 6, 2008, after the failure of contract talks.

The Boeing Company, the major aerospace and defence corporation, with its international headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, the United States, has already told its customers around the world that it could not predict the duration of the three-week-old strike of its 27,000 machinists.

The company said it could not guarantee the delivery date of V Australia’s first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

V Australia has eight 777-300ERs on order with options for six more, and it has announced three routes: two to Los Angeles and the third from Sydney to Johannesburg.

V Australia’s aircraft will have three classes: business, premium economy, and economy – with a bar in business class.

V Australia has three 777-300ERs close to completion, including the one that is painted in the airline’s new colours, Boeing said.

V Australia, officially V Australia Airlines, a long-haul international airline owned by Virgin Blue Holdings Limited, was expected to begin flights between Australia and the United States on December 15, 2008. The airline will be headquartered in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, unlike its parent company, which is based in Brisbane, Queensland.

V Australia was given permission for 10 flights a week to the Uniterd States by Australian regulators on July 24, 2007. The plans were approved by US operators on February 15, 2008, because of the signing of an Open Skies agreement between Australia and the US. The Australian regulatory approval for V Australia is contingent on operations starting by December 2008.

Meanwhile, Virgin Blue Holdings Limited has advised the Australian stock exchange that “the only responsible course of action is to nominate a revised V Australia launch date for the Sydney-Los Angeles service of February 28, 2009.”

However, the March 1, 2009, launch of the Brisbane-Los Angeles service would not be affected, the airline said.

In a statement, V Australia said it would be contacting all passengers booked to travel in the Christmas-New Year period to offer alternative arrangements. The airline has suspended sales for the December 15, 2008, to February 28, 2009, period.

The statement added: “If the strike at Boeing is resolved in the short term, V Australia will move swiftly to bring forward the start-up. We offer passengers three options: they can rebook for after March 1, 2009, with a $200 credit for travel on Virgin Blue’s domestic network; get a full refund; or get an alternative flight on another airline at Virgin’s expense.”

However, booking on another airline will be costly, as the return promotional fares started at just $999 – which is well under the published one-way fare on Qantas Airways of $2321 for travel on December 15.