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Virgin Australia: Cuts LA flights – heavy maintenance, or capacity redux?

Virgin Australia: Cuts LA flights – heavy maintenance, or capacity redux?

Et is reporting that Virgin Australia is reducing flights from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to Los Angeles due to scheduled heavy maintenance for their Boeing 777 fleet.

Heavy maintenance is determined by the usage of the aircraft, a combination of miles flown, and landings and takeoffs. So it can be predicted well in advance on the basis of flight schedules.

Virgin Australia is advising of this reduction in capacity about 10 months out, as the schedule changes are set for late July through to mid-September.

Capacity reduction?

Virgin Australia has been shaving 2% off its domestic capacity, so its odds on they would at least be reviewing their international capacity.

Usually, an airline would try and schedule its heavy maintenance on aircraft for a time in the year where its income would be least affected. That’s when the least people would be flying these Australian East Coast to Los Angeles routes.

On the basis of airfare cost – the months with the least customers on this route are September, October and November, so its a little surprising that they are doing it a few months before this period. The reasons could be that they are reaching the end of the allowable window for this heavy maintenance; there are other factors I am not aware of that make the earlier period more desireable for reducing capacity, or this is a deliberate tactic to reduce capacity at the earliest and least disruptive opportunity, with a view to restoring it, or maintaining the reduction in the future according to the economic data.

I’m going for the third option, especially since a Virgin representative says there might be further schedule changes in late October.

Flights affected

The following flights will be affected:

  • Brisbane/Los Angeles (VA7/VA8 & VA9/VA6) from 6 to 5
  • Melbourne/Los Angeles (VA23/VA24) from 5 to 4
  • Sydney/Los Angeles (VA1/VA2) from 7 to 5

What to do if you are booked on an affected flight

Contact the organisation that sold you the flight, or your travel agent if you used one. Contact them sooner rather than later. You won’t be the only one affected, so best snap to it!

2PAXfly Takeout

Heavy maintenance is predictable, so these changes probably could have been scheduled earlier. Having said that, 10 months out is fair warning.

I think this might be a capacity cut as much as a heavy maintenance-driven schedule change. I also predict that this change may be maintained after October unless the USA/Australia travel landscape improves.

Interestingly, around October is also where Qantas has been scheduling USA fare specials. It currently has USA flights on special as part of its ’12 Days of Xmas’ promotion

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