Virgin rebrands Australia and Pacific operations

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The Independent Travel

Sir Richard Branson Wednesday announced a rebranding of Virgin's airline operations in Australia and the Pacific in a bid to grab a larger slice of the corporate market from rival Qantas.

Domestic carrier Virgin Blue and its international offshoots, Pacific Blue and V Australia, will all be known as Virgin Australia, with negotiations under way to bring Polynesia Blue under the same umbrella.

British entrepreneur and part owner Branson, who launched the new airline in Sydney with chief executive John Borghetti, said the move would allow Virgin to build a single strong brand recognised globally.

As well as changing the name, Virgin has also dropped the bright red body paint from its aircraft in favour of a more conservative white with red trim as it seeks to revive fortunes after rising fuel prices eroded earnings.

Branson said the Virgin Australia brand represented a new chapter for the airline, which first started flying in Australia 11 years ago.

"I'm absolutely thrilled with the new look and feel of Virgin Australia's domestic product and I know it will shake up the Australian travel market on a larger scale than it did 10 years ago," he said.

Analysts said the move was part of a strategy to shift Virgin, Australia's second-largest carrier, away from low-cost carriers such as Jetstar and Tiger Airways and towards Qantas in the full-service market.

Virgin fired the first shots in this battle by introducing a new Boeing 737-800 and an Airbus A330-200 aircraft to its Australian domestic fleet Wednesday.

More are expected later in the year, complete with luxury leather seating and a gourmet menu designed by Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan.

"We're going after Qantas's business market and by capturing that business market we will be able to do a lot more for the economy customer," Branson told reporters.

He said Virgin Australia would reposition the business in line with its overseas counterparts - Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America - which have a strong business class offering.

Borghetti added that the brand consolidation represented a pivotal point in the airline's history.

"Virgin Australia will be the airline of choice for all market segments," he said.

"We will do this by bringing the magic back to flying - providing a seamless experience, with excellent service that can be tailored to the individual.

"In re-positioning the airline we have kept all the great attributes for which Virgin Blue is renowned - the 'can-do' attitude, the competitive pricing and the genuine friendly service."

Virgin Australia will operate domestically in Australia as of Wednesday, with V Australia and Pacific Blue operating under the name by year end.