Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah says the airline will continue to invest in the customer experience as it restructures the business with the aim of returning to profitability.
Part of that investment includes a new premium passenger lounge at Brisbane Airport’s international terminal in partnership with the No1 Lounges company that officially opened on Wednesday.
Scurrah said the positive response from travellers to the two The House lounges in Melbourne and Sydney, respectively, gave Virgin Australia the confidence to expand its lounge network to Brisbane under No1 Lounges’ My Lounge concept.
Further, it represented the airline’s willingness to keep improving its product to try to meet and exceed customer expectations even as the company works to turn around seven consecutive years of losses.
“For nearly 20 years – we just celebrated our 19th birthday – we have been keeping the air fair in Australia. We are the best value carrier – we know that, our customers tell us that,” Scurrah told reporters at the official lounge opening on Wednesday.
“This actually gives us the opportunity to continue being that and we continue to be a strong competitive force in Australian aviation so what we have to do as far as that is concerned is make sure we continue to evolve our customer offering.
“Our customers give us lots of feedback, we know what they really like about us and we know what their expectations are going forward so it is incredibly important that whilst we go through change, while we restructure the business and we set it up for future profitability, that we continue to evolve our product.
“This announcement today, this wonderful lounge that we are opening today, is a symbol of our seriousness about continuing to invest.”
On August 28, Virgin Australia announced it was cutting 750 jobs – to come mainly from head office and corporate roles – as part of efforts bring the airline group back to profitability.
The job losses was in addition to an ongoing review of the airline group’s fleet, network and capacity settings, as well as savings it hoped to achieve through discussions with aircraft lessors, airports, maintenance providers and other “strategic supply agreements”.
Virgin Australia has already pushed back delivery of the first Boeing 737 MAX to 2021.
There is also a simplified organisational structure designed to bring the three flying businesses – Virgin Australia, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) and low-cost carrier Tigerair Australia – closer together.
My Lounge Home of Virgin Australia features innovative use of space
The new facility, built over an eight-week period, was located at the northern end of the international terminal between gates 76 and 78 in an area previously used for seating. It was also close to where the bulk of Virgin Australia’s flights departed from.
Designed to seat about 100 people, “My Lounge Home of Virgin Australia” featured children-friendly areas, bathrooms and showers. There were also views of the airfield for aviation enthusiasts.
Brisbane Airport chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff paid tribute to all concerned for an innovative use of the terminal.
“This is a very special product because this was never intended to be a lounge space,” de Graaff said. “This was a seating area for the public.”
“But with a bit of creative thinking of all three parties involved, we came up with the idea to take a little bit of public seating space and convert it to a premium lounge space for Virgin Australia’s customers.
“I’m very proud of that.”
Brisbane is the 15th in No1 Lounges’ network and third in Australia alongside The House at both Melbourne and Sydney. All other lounges are in the United Kingdom.
In addition to welcoming eligible passengers on Virgin Australia’s international network out of Brisbane – the airline serves to Fiji, Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, the United States and Vanuatu from the Queensland capital – those travelling on any airline can pay $60 to use the facility.
No1 Lounges was also working with trade partners, holiday companies and other airlines on access to the facility. Further, My Lounge was already part of the DragonPass lounge network and was expected to join Priority Pass in the period ahead.
“We’re all about it making it easier for everyone to eat, drink and relax in style before you fly,” Upton said. “We’ve got all the facilities you would expect in a lounge.”
“One of the things that is great about what we are trying to do at No1 is to really democratise access to lounges. You can fly with any airline, you have any ticket and you can have access to a lounge.”
Scurrah said there had been positive feedback from Virgin Australia passengers to The House lounges in Melbourne and Sydney.
“Our guests love them,” Scurrah said.
“We didn’t want to be just like everyone else with the lounge experience. In fact, where I am taking the Virgin Australia group is to make sure people book us for the things that are different, not for the things that are the same.
“We are uniquely Virgin and will continue to prove that we are.”
Looking ahead, Scurrah said Virgin Australia was “about to embark on a new lounge product” in Adelaide as part of the airport’s terminal upgrade project.