Virgin Australia plans to relinquish its New Zealand air operator’s certificate (AOC) and transfer its New Zealand-based fleet of 10 Boeing 737-800s onto the Australian register as part of plans to streamline the airline’s operations.
The 10 ZK-registered narrowbodies currently under Virgin’s NZ AOC will be progressively brought onto the airline’s Australian AOC and given VH- registrations. The first of these, ZK-PBA, was re-registered VH-VOO on January 30, according to a search of the CASA civil aircraft register database.
Once Virgin’s NZ AOC has been relinquished, Virgin will have three remaining Australian AOCs.
A search on the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) website showed Virgin’s three Australian AOCs were for Virgin Australia Airlines, Virgin Australia International Airlines and another for Virgin Australia Regional Airlines.
The 10 aircraft will also soon be reconfigured from their current 180-seat, premium economy/economy layout to the standard eight-seat business and 168-seat economy cabins on the Virgin’s Australia-based 737-800 fleet.
Virgin chief executive John Borghetti flagged the integration of the airline’s New Zealand operations “into the rest of our international business” in a bid to streamline operations at its 2013/14 full year results presentation in August 2014.
The initiative was part of Virgin’s efforts to take out $1 billion of costs over the five years to June 2017.
“Cost will be a major focus over the next three years,” Borghetti said at the time.
It is understood there will be no change to Virgin’s New Zealand-based cabin crew and pilot numbers.
However, functions such as flight planning will be transferred to Virgin’s Brisbane operations centre. Those New Zealand-based staff affected by the change were expected to be offered alternate roles and/or job placement services.
It is also anticipated there will be no changes to both Virgin Australia’s trans-Tasman services and flights from NZ to a number of Pacific Island destinations as a result of the relinquishing of the NZ AOC.
Under an open skies agreement, civil aviation regulators of Australia and NZ recognise AOCs issued by either country. This mutual recognition was first mooted in 2000 and came into effect in 2007.
For example, Jetstar operates domestic NZ flights under its Australian AOC that is recognised by the Civil Aviation Authority of NZ.
In 2003, the then Virgin Blue set up its Pacific Blue subsidiary to operate trans-Tasman services, with the first flight on January 19 2004 between Brisbane and Christchurch.
The airline was then certified to start flying within New Zealand in 2007, with the first domestic flights on November 15.
Virgin withdrew from the NZ domestic market in 2010, the year it received approval from regulators for a joint-venture partnership with Air New Zealand across the Tasman.