Virgin Australia Axes Melbourne To Los Angeles Flight

As much as I rag on Delta SkyMiles, they’re one of the most valuable mileage currencies for two of the most difficult award tickets in the world:

  • Travel to Australia, since they partner with Virgin Australia, which historically releases the most saver business class award space between the US mainland and Australia
  • Travel to Tahiti, since they partner with both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui, which are the two airlines flying nonstop between the US mainland and Tahiti

So while I have lots of complaints about the SkyMiles program, awards to Australia and Tahiti aren’t among them.

Delta, Qantas, United, and Virgin Australia are the four airlines flying nonstop between the US mainland and Australia, and historically Virgin Australia is by far the most generous with business class award space, as I said above.

Virgin Australia flies from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, and it’s not unusual to see four business class award seats per flight. Anecdotally I’d say that Brisbane is the easiest route for snagging award space, followed by Melbourne, followed by Sydney.

Virgin-Australia-Routes

On Monday, Gary noted how there was limited Virgin Australia business class award space at the moment even when planning far in advance, and explains that it’s somewhat cyclical, so wasn’t cause for concern. I’ve found the same to be true, that availability seems to go in spurts. Sometimes every flight has four business class award seats, then there’s nothing, and then a few weeks later there’s a ton of space again.

This time around it looks like there may be a good reason for the lack of availability, and it’s not good news for those of us looking to redeem miles.

Australian Business Traveller notes that Virgin Australia will be discontinuing their Melbourne to Los Angeles flight as of October 26, 2014. The only good news is that the Brisbane to Los Angeles route goes from 4x weekly to daily.

The timing of this discontinuation isn’t a coincidence — United launches Boeing 787-9 service between Melbourne and Los Angeles as of October 26, 2014, the same day that Virgin Australia is discontinuing their service.

I’m kind of surprised to see Virgin Australia discontinue this route — you’d think even with the competition it would be a higher yield route than Brisbane, though I’m guessing that a lot of passengers on the flight are connecting anyway, and in that case Brisbane may make more sense.

This doesn’t actually translate to a net decrease in capacity as far as I can tell — they’re simply converting the 3x weekly Melbourne service and 4x weekly Brisbane service to daily Brisbane service. But it does suggest a change in strategy, and that perhaps they’re going to get more aggressive with trying to sell seats. Or it could be a total coincidence that this coincides with a period where Virgin Australia business class award space has greatly dried up.

Virgin-Business-Class
Virgin Australia 777-300ER business class

If this trend sticks, it definitely decreases the value of SkyMiles, in my opinion.

Do you think Virgin Australia’s Melbourne to Los Angeles route being cut is related to their lack of business class award availability?

Comments

  1. I think Australian Business Traveler is misinformed. As far as I can tell, VA only runs LAX-MEL 3x weekly (STTh). Pulling it down and adding three weekly frequencies to Brisbane is capacity neutral.

  2. Great. I just booked LAX-MEL-LAX few weeks ago for next March using sky miles. How do you think they’ll handle rebookings?

  3. You make a very good point. After SQ stopped the SIN-EWR nonstop service back in Nov 2013, I’ve found it a lot harder to find business class space on the JFK-FRA-SIN route.

  4. BNE-LAX and MEL-LAX are run on alternating days. So if VA is going daily on BNE-LAX then the change is capacity neutral between US and Australia.

  5. @ Papa Smurf — My guess is that you’ll be automatically rerouted on either the flight through Brisbane or Melbourne.

  6. I just flew the LAX->MEL flight last month. While rather long (15h50m), I found VA’s business class quite comfortable and managed to get a good night’s sleep, thus was well-rested when we arrived in MEL. They even gave out PJs and service was top-notch. While I haven’t flown UA’s 787, I have experienced their lie-flat front & rear-facing biz class on other aircraft and VA is better, IMHO. I’ve never been thrilled with UA’s service or food, so I think VA easily wins that competition too. Plus they have a little bar complete with bar stools and the overall Virgin-signature ambiance. Makes me wonder why VA would leave this route because they appear to have a superior product.

  7. @Erik – “Makes me wonder why VA would leave this route because they appear to have a superior product.”

    What good does a superior product do them if they don’t think they’re making enough money?

  8. I have a lot of Skymiles to burn and I’m targeting another trip to Oz with them in 2016. I know, I know, way ahead of myself. Though, I would probably book sometime in March of 2015. I am not terribly concerned about this…yet. As others have stated, seems to be capacity neutral as far as seats flying from the USA to Australia. So, this change is a minor concern for me. The bigger concern, of course, is what Gary reported on the other day with the suddenly non-existent VA space.

    It’s really too bad DL doesn’t ever have any space. I liked VA’s Biz Class. I was on the SYD-LAX flight back in February. And while I wasn’t able to sleep at all due to the flight having left in the early afternoon Sydney time, it was a comfortable experience. Not nearly the privacy that DL’s Business Elite has, and I thought the DL seat was also more comfy. I guess I’m an aisle access for every seat snob.

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