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Awesome, possibly game-changing news in the land of Oz from our friends at Australian Business Traveller! Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin group of airlines are no stranger to in-flight technology, and now it looks like Virgin Australia is next in line for an upgrade. The airline is working on all kinds of in-flight entertainment options behind the scenes, but the one we’re most interested in is WiFi access.
Don’t start emailing friends and family while traveling down under just yet, as it sounds like the wireless capabilities might be used for things other than watching YouTube videos. Virgin Australia is actually planning to use the connectivity to pass along new entertainment options—like movies and music—rather than just Internet access. However, we have our doubts that they’ll be able to resist offering in-flight connectivity to one and all once the technology is on board.
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There are plenty of Virgin brands within Richard Branson’s aviation world, from Virgin Atlantic to Virgin America to Virgin Blue; sometimes it’s hard to keep all of them straight. Virgin Blue is the domestic carrier that does its thing in and around Australia, but it looks like it’s getting a name upgrade to fall in line with the rest of the brands around the world.
The airline will be rebranded as Virgin Australia, not to be confused with the already existing long-haul Virgin carrier V Australia. The name change also involves a pending lawsuit requiring another virgin company in Australia—one that made bookmarks—to pick a different name. Already domain names and other advertising goodies have already changed hands, but if you travel over to virginaustralia.com.au it’s still blank.
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The best part of visiting Australia might just be found at the airport, that is if the folks at Virgin get their dreams to come true. Virgin Atlantic is thinking about building their first clubhouse down under, and it won’t just be one of their traditional airport lounges. Not only would it be their newest, but it could be the best, with new technology and extra space needed, as it will be available for flyers aboard V Australia and Virgin Blue as well.
The Virgin Group is already working on a new place to score a Virgin Redhead before your flight for all three of its airlines in Los Angeles, so these super combo lounges might just be part of their future plans for their company and passenger comfort. Right now they’re committing to finishing things at LAX, but it sounds like the blueprints to their latest clubhouse might be sent to Sydney at some point in 2011.
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Remember when, last year, Brit Ben Southall went down under to work the Best Job in the World? Well, Ben is gone now but that doesn't mean Tourism Queensland is laying back and taking break. Nope. They've just partnered up with Foursquare to attract tourists via a new badge and a flight discount.
The "Shine Seeker" badge can be earned when a Foursquare user follows Queensland on foursquare and then checks into five of the 100 recommended spots (that have pretty great tips) on their page. Users who unlock the badge before December 31, 2010 are then automatically entered in a contest to win one of two trips to Cairns.
Thanks to a little bit of an electronic glitch, travelers looking to jet around aboard Virgin Blue are now stuck down under. Over the weekend, the reservation system for Virgin Blue crashed and burned, and as a result everything had to be done by hand. Obviously, this wasn’t the ideal situation, and the travel plans of many were put on hold as passengers entered the world of travel hell.
The airline was begging passengers to postpone travel if they could, and that non-essential trips—we consider all our trips essential—be postponed to today if possible. At least those stuck Sunday night were promised a hotel room for the evening, so there was no need to camp out in the terminal.
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It's the moment we've all been waiting for! Okay, so we haven't been waiting for it with bated breath, but we have been wondering when it would finally come about...
If you're a member of Virgin America's eleVAte frequent flyer miles program (membership is free), then you'll be able to earn points for your account from your travels on other Virgin-branded airlines. That's right, eleVAte isn't just for Virgin America any longer; flights on Virgin Atlantic, V Australia and Virgin Blue will count towards free flights as well.
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Who's ready to hang out with some hot Aussies onboard Virgin America? No, the still-rather-new domestic airline isn't flying over the Pacific yet, but instead bringing some of their fellow Virgins into a crew-exchange program, whereby Virgin Blue flight attendants can come work the friendly US skies while their Virgin America colleagues similarly head down to Oz.
The program mirrors one already in place between Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Blue, and the girls will be based in San Francisco, but flying throughout Virgin America's route network for one solid year. While the Americans do the same on Virgin Blue, the Aussie FAs will act as cultural ambassadors, making use of their alluring accents and enthusiasm for Australia to subliminally get you thinking about a trip to Oz. It's like a "walking, talking mini tourism campaign being waged across the skies of both countries," says Director of People for Virgin America, Christine Morehead.
Australian hottie Sam Worthington and his girlfriend Natalie Mark were spotted checking quite a bit of luggage at the Virgin Atlantic counter in LAX Tuesday. The couple was heading back home after attending the Golden Globes on Sunday. It was a good night for Sam and his director, James Cameron, as their film, Avatar, took home the Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama.
Its rumored Worthington has already signed on for the Avatar II, an idea Cameron has always been open to. “I’ve had a storyline in mind from the start – there are even scenes in Avatar that I kept in because they lead to the sequel ,” Cameron said. “It just makes sense to think of it as a two-or-three film arc, in terms of the business plan. The plants and trees, etc, all takes an enormous amount of time to create . It’d be a waste not to use it again,” he added.
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The Aussie part of Richard Branson's vast empire, low-cost carrier Virgin Blue, has a plan that doesn't sound good for tall or large people. Or anyone one wants to sit reasonably comfortably in a plane, in fact.
Like many airline proposals these days, the new project centers on getting more passengers into the same space. The ideas include putting in extra seats after the emergency exit at the back (apparently that alone would decrease their costs by 3%, presuming people buy those seats) and trying to find other ways to alter the mix of premium, economy and "third class" seats.
We have to admit we were a little surprised to learn that the trip from Sydney to Melbourne ranks as the third-busiest travel route in the world, but if that's true, then it sure makes sense that low-cost carrier Tiger Airways has just thrown its two cents in the ring.
Since last Friday, Tiger has been running multiple flights between Sydney and Melbourne each day, with all-inclusive one-way fares starting from A$39 ($31) for the 90-minute flight. There's heavy competition from Jetstar, Virgin Blue and Qantas, but at the moment Tiger's prices are definitely amongst the lowest. If nothing else, this means that if you get Down Under, you will definitely be able to take in both Sydney and Melbourne without adding too much strain to the budget.
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Virgin Blue says they've introduced their new Sydney to Hamilton Island routethey started flying it on Saturdayonly "after close analysis," saying there's long been a clear demand from both domestic and international travelers to access the Whitsunday Island's main stop from Sydney, but we suspect it's actually a sudden demand: everybody wants to see how Best Job in the World winner Ben Southall is doing.
It's surely no coincidence that Virgin Blue's route has started up just a couple of days after Ben arrived for his six-month residence on Hamilton Island. Now that he is Twittering and blogging his way around the Whitsunday Islands, it's no wonder Virgin Blue has found a bunch of extra customers.
If you want to check out Ben's lifestyle or have your own personal reasons for hitting the Whitsundayssun, sand and surf still countVirgin Blue has daily direct flights from Sydney. We found flights as low as A$145 ($115, one way) but you have to book a bit ahead of time to get 'em that cheap. Say hi to Ben for us!
· Island Caretaker Blog [Official Site]
· Hamilton Island Gets a Brit for Best Job in the World [Jaunted]
· Virgin Blue Coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo: Gluehwein Effects]
Long-serving Australian musician Steve Lucas - he's not exactly a household name around the world, but his band X have been playing longer than most of us have been alive – was doing what he often does, taking a Virgin Blue flight to get down from Sydney to a gig in Melbourne. But then the airline took all of Lucas's luggage off the plane.
It wasn't because one of his three guitars was in a box that looked like a coffin; no, the problem was that one of his guitar straps was decorated with empty bronze bullet cartridges. Lucas landed in Melbourne and discovered that for some reason, all three guitars had been sent to Canberra, and the Virgin Blue complaints line told him he was "potentially a terrorist." Perhaps they know something about the quality of his music that we don't.