V Australia Flights – Virgin’s Borghetti turns tail and runs

Virgin Blue withdraws from South Africa

Virgin Blue boldly marched into the South African market earlier this year with the launch of direct flights between Johannesburg and Melbourne on their new baby, V Australia. Touted as an excellent alternative to others operating similar routes like Qantas, the advent of a new operator and a new route seemed bound to make trans-Indian Ocean flight prices plummet.

Later this year – in fact, only about 10 days ago, CEO of Virgin Blue, John Borghetti was quoted by the company’s offices in South Africa as saying: “We are adding capacity to routes with strong revenue potential and accordingly, removing capacity from services which are underperforming.” This was mentioned in relation to increasing capacity to South Africa with extra flights and modern aircraft to operate the route. South Africa was mentioned as having a strong revenue potential.

In what must surely be an embarrassing and discreditory statement to a CEO’s reputation to make, Mr Borghetti is now quoted as saying: “As a minor player on the African route the prospects of achieving a return are remote.” Surely he cannot have forgotten his statement 10 days earlier? It seems worrying that someone as high up as a CEO of a Virgin Group company could make two such  contradictory statements so close to each other. Were his facts that wrong when issuing the first statement? Had they not done their research? Or was their announcement just premature?

The company now says it will not be focussing on Thailand and Africa as mentioned less than two weeks ago, but will be concentrating on Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi of all places in partnership with UAE airline superpower Etihad Airways. For me, this wreaks of instability, that two such contradictory statements are made in such a short time, that flights are being shut down left, right and centre within their regional and now long-haul routes to favour a partnership with an unrelated foreign airline.

Moral of the story, if the airline is new, don’t book flights long in advance, rather book on a well-known, stable airline or book closer to the time to avoid having your trip cancelled.

V Australia ceases operations to Johannesburg on 22 February 2011, if you have a flight after this date, contact your travel agent or the airline to assist with refunding/rebooking.

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