Qatar’s 787 first in southern skies
Qatar Airways has won the race to fly the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner commercial service in Down Under skies.
The new generation aircraft will start a daily Perth-Doha service from February 1, 2013.
Other airlines, such as China Southern and Jetstar, are also getting 787-200 Dreamliners.
Qatar took delivery of the first of 60 Dreamliners last month and overnight flew the inaugural 787 flight from Doha to London Heathrow.
"From February we will be able to offer the UK and western Australian markets a single 787 product all the way, giving our passengers a whole new long-haul experience on the world's newest aircraft," says Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker.
Qantas to rejig Asian services
Qantas Airways is rescheduling its Hong Kong and Singapore services so they are more business friendly.
At present the day-time flights – which are timed to connect with services on to Europe – arrive too late for business meetings or to connect with Asian regional flights.
The changes will mean travellers can make regional connections without spending the night in Asian ports.
The changes will be announced next month, says Simon Hickey, the head of the airline's international division.
Meanwhile, Qantas is also introducing a new sleeper service for premium passengers on flights to six Asian cities and five others globally.
The sleeper service, which allows passengers to eat meals in lounges so they can sleep throughout their journey, will start on flights to Los Angeles next week and then to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo, Jakarta, Shanghai and Manila by the end of next month.
The service will also be offered on routes to Johannesburg, London, Frankfurt and Dallas by the same date.
Singapore codeshares with Virgin America
Virgin America, based in San Francisco, has reached a code-share agreement with Singapore Airlines on select flights.
Virgin America says the deal will allow it to connect travellers to more destinations on several continents.
Singapore Airlines, which this agreed to sell its entire 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic to Delta Air Lines for $US360 million, is likely need more acquisitions or partnerships as it reshapes its strategy to tap into the fast growing Asian markets and to counter stiff competition from Middle Eastern carriers.
It had some $S4.7 billion in cash before the Delta deal and is considering its options in China and India, with their combined population of about 2.6 billion people.
"We would like to grow more in China and India, but there are some limitations to operations in both those countries," spokesman Nicholas Ionides says, referring to traffic rights in India and airport slots in parts of China.
SIA has tried to buy into the two countries' carriers previously, without success.
Luxon sees benefits in Virgin Australia
Air New Zealand’s incoming chief executive, Christopher Luxon, has been talking up the relationship with Virgin Australia in the Australian media.
Mr Luxon, who has been in Australia this week to help farewell outgoing chief executive Rob Fyfe, says he had been encouraged by the acceptance of the Air New Zealand brand in Australia.
"But it's about, how do we continue to deepen that out?" he is quoted as saying. "And we've got our sales and distribution teams organised to try to develop even more business."
Describing the Virgin relationship as "very, very solid," he says executive teams from both airlines have met in Auckland to look at developing areas of mutual interest.
"If you start to think about the operations of our respective businesses and some of the synergies that are available, and closer collaboration and partnership around that, that's a big opportunity for both organisations," he says. "And in the Virgin strategy and the Air NZ strategy, we're both looking at stripping out cost and complexity that doesn't make sense and that the customers ultimately value."
Webjet buys Asian rival
Online travel retailer Webjet has taken a significant presence in Asia through a deal to buy one of its major competitors, Zuji – Singapore and Hong Kong's largest online travel agency – for $A23.74 million.
Zuji registers total ticket sales of more than $3A00 million annually and is the official packaging partner of Virgin Australia's Blue Holidays.
“The acquisition of Zuji represents a unique opportunity to substantially expand Webjet's marketing footprint, particularly in the growth markets of Asia,” Webjet managing director John Guscic says.
“In conjunction with our recent innovations in distribution technology, we see significant opportunities to deepen our market footprint in an environment where the provisioning of online travel is rapidly transcending traditional desktop access and becoming part of the fundamental travellers' journey and experience.”
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