Virgin Australia has struck a new unilateral trans-Tasman codeshare deal with Air New Zealand, more than five years after Air New Zealand severed ties with Virgin Australia, only to establish a reciprocal domestic codeshare pact with competitor Qantas two months later.
A collaboration with Air New Zealand is nothing new for Virgin Australia. For many years, the two airlines had a longtime relationship until 2018, when Air New Zealand inked a new collaboration agreement with Qantas.
However, the tide has turned, with Virgin Australia announcing that the new agreement would provide its customers direct access to Air New Zealand flights into Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
“This codeshare agreement would complement Virgin Australia’s popular direct Queenstown services by expanding our trans-Tasman footprint with a world-class partner airline our customers know and love,” said Alistair Hartley, Virgin Australia’s Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer.
The request has been officially filed to the ACCC and the New Zealand Ministry of Transport. If approved, it will open additional benefits for Virgin’s loyalty members to earn points across the Tasman and provide members with greater lounge access.
One problem will undoubtedly be Air New Zealand’s existing partnership with Qantas. However, the partnership between Qantas and Air New Zealand is limited to each country’s domestic airspace. Air New Zealand, for example, codeshares on Qantas domestic flights. On trans-Tasman flights, however, the two carriers compete head to head.
Given that Qantas and Air New Zealand’s codeshare agreement does not include trans-Tasman flights, it is expected that Qantas will be unfazed by the new plan and would instead consider adding its own 16 trans-Tasman flights.
Watching what happens with the Qantas tie-up would be interesting if the proposed partnership between Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand is approved. The two partnerships might still operate together while covering different markets. However, a bigger and more comprehensive relationship might improve the travel experience for customers.