Virgin Australia has reopened its long-haul base at Melbourne Tullamarine with the resumption of nonstop flights to Los Angeles.
Flight VA23, operated by Boeing 777-300ER VH-VPF, took off from Melbourne at about 1145 local time on Tuesday and was scheduled to land at Los Angeles Airport about 14 hours later.
Virgin consolidated its long-haul Boeing 777-300ER flying to Brisbane and Sydney in October 2014 when it withdrew from the Melbourne-Los Angeles route.
However, in September 2016 the airline announced a shakeup of its long-haul network that included a five-times weekly Melbourne-Los Angeles service, as well as a reduction of Brisbane-Los Angeles from daily to six times weekly.
There will also be a schedule change on one Brisbane-Los Angeles-Brisbane rotation a week, which will be an evening departure from Brisbane and a morning departure from Los Angeles. That change, as well as ending the three times weekly Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights in February 2017, helped free up the extra flying time on its five 777-300ERs required to return to the Melbourne-Los Angeles route.
With Melbourne-Los Angeles underway, Virgin and its joint-venture partner Delta Air Lines now offer 25 flights a week from Australia to Los Angeles. Further, it is the only alliance to guarantee direct aisle access and lie-flat beds for every passenger in business class, regardless of airline, route or aircraft type.
“We are delighted to commence services between Melbourne and Los Angeles today, bringing the Virgin Australia flair and sophistication to this route,” Virgin Australia group executive for airlines John Thomas said.
Qantas and United are the other two carriers offering nonstop flights on Melbourne-Los Angeles.
There will be further Virgin Australia long-haul flying out of Melbourne from July 5, when the airline mounts nonstop flights from the Victorian capital to Hong Kong with Airbus A330-200 equipment in partnership with HNA Group.
Virgin Australia’s international network (which apart from Los Angeles also includes South Pacific, trans-Tasman and Bali flying) posted underlying earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of $800,000 for the six months to December 31 2016, representing a return into the black following a $30.8 million underlying EBIT loss in the prior corresponding period.