Alliance Airlines chief executive Lee Schofield says he expects almost all passengers on its regular public transport (RPT) operations to regional Queensland due to start on July 17 to come via its partnership with Virgin Australia.
It was announced in May Alliance would offer RPT flights from Brisbane to Bundaberg, Gladstone and Port Macquarie from July 17 2017, which will be sold as Virgin codeshare services.
Those flights are now on sale via the Virgin website and global distribution systems (GDS) and Schofield says “effectively all” of the ticket sales for its three RPT flights would come through Virgin.
“That’s really the attraction of it,” Schofield told Australian Aviation in an interview.
“For RPT to succeed it does need to be in the GDS among other things and it does need to have a big distribution presence that Virgin has.
“Although a codeshare is the most accurate description of it, in reality we are relying on having their flight numbers and the VA code and the flights being available through Virgin.”
The Alliance flights will operate out of the Virgin terminal at Brisbane Airport, with passengers checking in at the Virgin counters. Web and mobile checkin will be offered on all Alliance flights.
Virgin is withdrawing eight of its 14 ATR 72-500/600s and ending turboprop operations in Queensland as part of its fleet simplification and cost reduction efforts. As a result, it will cease flying from Brisbane to Bundaberg, Gladstone and Port Macquarie.
However, the airline is able to continue to offer those destinations through the codeshare partnership with Alliance.
Further, members of Virgin’s frequent flyer program will continue to earn points and status credits on Alliance-operated services, while eligible members would still receive benefits such as lounge access and priority handling.
Schofield said the schedules for its three new RPT flights had been designed to offer the same level of frequency as Virgin operated previously, while the passengers would experience a similar level of service on board the aircraft.
“We are taking on all of Virgin’s forward bookings so anyone who has a Virgin ticket booked for the period after the 17th of July will be offered to travel on the Alliance aircraft,” Schofield said.
“All those bookings are being honoured so you do want some consistency there.
“We also have a view that for regional Queensland, overall schedule consistency during the week is an important factor so we have tried to even it out so that you have the flights across the week departing at the same time and in terms of frequency it is very consistent with what Virgin is offering at the moment across those three markets.”
Bundaberg and Port Macquarie will be served daily, while there will be 17 flights a week on the Brisbane-Gladstone route.
While Virgin and Alliance said in May the heads of agreement would also cover the Brisbane-Moranbah route, Alliance said on its website jet services to Moranbah were “subject to consultation with Isaac Regional Council and BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance”.
Alliance’s Fokker 70 regional jets are are fitted with 80 seats in a 2-3 layout with 33in pitch in an all-economy configuration. By contrast, Virgin’s turboprops have 68 seats.
To celebrate the return to RPT services, Alliance is giving away a free return ticket to any passenger who books and travels on its Bundaberg, Gladstone and Port Macquarie flights on the first day of operations on July 17.
These RPT flights are one part of Alliance’s work with Virgin.
Alliance also operates some regional Queensland services on behalf of Virgin via a wet-lease arrangement, while the two companies recently received approval from Australia’s competition regulator to establish a charter partnership.