Technology Enhancements to Take Centre Stage at Relaunched Virgin Australia, Says CEO

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Image: Emma Kelly

Technology is set to play a major role in the new Virgin Australia, with the airline planning a “significant pipeline of technology projects” designed to enhance the passenger experience under new Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka and owner Bain Capital. A complete review of the airline’s business class is also under way ahead of a planned relaunch next year, in addition to a review of its existing in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment offerings.

Speaking on her official first day in the job, Virgin Australia’s Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka confirmed it will be a “mid-market carrier” positioned between a low-cost carrier and a traditional full-service one. “Australia already has an LCC [Jetstar] and a traditional full-service airline [Qantas] and we won’t be either. Virgin Australia will be a mid-market carrier appealing to customers who are after a great value airfare and better service,” said Hrdlicka, who was previously Jetstar Group CEO.

Technology enhancements will be made to the airline’s mobile app with the aim of creating a more integrated experience for travelers and the airline’s Velocity Frequent Flyer members. Hrdlicka explained the enhancements to the app planned through 2021 would deliver “a much more personalised travel experience,” and a single gateway to engage with the airline and Velocity.

The airport experience will also be improved with new state-of-the-art self-service and assisted check-in facilities set to open across all major Australian airports by the end of 2021. Such hybrid check-in facilities are already in operation in Melbourne and Perth, improving customer flow and reducing wait times.

Onboard, the airline will continue to operate three passenger classes – Business Class, Economy-X and Economy. Business class will undergo a complete end-to-end review before a relaunch in 2021. According to Hrdlicka, the review will be conducted in collaboration with the airline’s crew and designed to meet passenger needs while retaining the elements they love.

“We’ve announced a plan that will ultimately give our customers what they value without the big price tag.”

Jayne Hrdlicka, Virgin Australia

The airline will continue to offer its Economy-X product, featuring extra legroom seating and a dedicated overhead luggage compartment, with the service proving a popular upgrade option. In the economy cabin, complimentary meals and snacks will be replaced with a new fresh onboard menu for purchase early next year.

Details of possible changes to Virgin Australia’s in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment will be announced in 2021. The airline currently provides Wi-Fi across its fleet delivered via Gogo’s 2Ku technology, while entertainment includes content streamed to passenger devices via the airline’s app using Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect solution.

The carrier will retain its domestic lounges in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast, while lounges in Darwin, Cairns and Mackay will close due to low usage. A new lounge in Adelaide, which will open in the first quarter of 2021, will be the prototype for the airline’s lounge of the future, which will be rolled out across the network.

Virgin Australia will serve a comprehensive network of domestic and regional destinations, and is aiming to retain a domestic market share of approximately one-third, Hrdlicka said. Following a comprehensive business review, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines will be restructured to create a more sustainable and profitable business.

“We’ve announced a plan that will ultimately give our customers what they value without the big price tag: premium lounges, a new and fresh retail offering onboard, a choice of cabins, better digital technology and a more streamlined check-in experience,” she concluded.

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