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Wirraway
20th Jan 2003, 16:49
NZ City

Virgin Blue/Atlantic eyes NZ

Virgin Blue is meeting the Commerce Commission next week to argue its case to fly the Tasman.

The Australian cut price airline has announced a $5 billion deal with Boeing to order ten new aircraft now, and another 40 over the next eight to 10 years.

Virgin Blue says its new aircraft order propels the company into the top half dozen low fare carriers in the world, in terms of fleet size. Ryanair, easyJet, JetBlue and WestJet are also on the list.

The new planes will allow Virgin Blue to expand international routes, but the airline says the proposed Qantas-Air New Zealand deal is cramping its plans.

Chief executive Brett Godfrey says it is throwing all its resources at being able to fly trans-Tasman.

He says the Qantas-Air New Zealand link up will have to be structured in a way that allows for a new entrant.

Meanwhile, Virgin Blue is also considering whether to launch Virgin Atlantic on the Los Angeles to Auckland route.

Travel agents are predicting availability problems on the route after United Airlines ceases flying it at the end of March.

Mr Godfrey says Virgin Blue's planes are not designed for that distance, but with its sister airline Virgin Atlantic looking at coming into Australia, LA to Auckland may be of interest to it.

2003 NZCity, IRN