In a dramatic escalation of the war for Perth air passengers, Virgin Australia has announced that most flights from Perth to Sydney and Melbourne will be on its new A330 wide-body jets and economy passengers will get free hot meals, drinks and in-flight entertainment.
The upgrade of services puts Virgin Australia head to head with Qantas - the first time Australia's biggest airline has faced direct competition since Ansett's demise.
Virgin will also increase its 737-800 flights with a full business class cabin from Brisbane to Perth from two to three a day on weekdays.
The airline says fare costs will not be affected.
Virgin Australia group executive Merren McArthur said enhancing the travel experience from the east coast to Perth was an important part of the strategy to become the airline of choice in Australia.
Perth was the fastest growing capital city for airlines with almost double-digit growth. Most cities have recorded flat numbers.
"We have recorded doubledigit growth every year for the past four years," Ms MacArthur said.
The airline will roll out the new product and services from September 26.
The economy upgrade is a major shift for Virgin Australia, which previously charged for food, drinks and in-flight entertainment.
Like Qantas, the airline will offer free alcoholic drinks after midday on transcontinental flights.
To support the significant push into the Perth market, Virgin Australia is em- ploying another 200 flight attendants for its Perth base.
"Over the past 12 months, we have increased our WA workforce by 30 per cent," Ms McArthur said.The airline has 160 return services to Perth every week from domestic and international destinations.
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