The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is not about to let Virgin Blue and Air New Zealand merge, but NZ turned some heads today after declaring plans to purchase a 14.99% stake in Virgin Blue.
NZ says it is not interested in taking over the airline. Instead, Robin Fyfe, NZ’s CEO, stated, "This investment cements the emerging relationship between our two airlines and demonstrates the confidence we have in Virgin Blue both as an entity and as a partner for Air New Zealand."
I’m not quite sure what to make out of that statement: Fyfe certainly does not rule out a potential future push for greater integration. Just like Lufthansa owns an investment interest in JetBlue, however, I am not getting my hopes up that NZ’s partial ownership places Virgin Blue in contention to join Star Alliance.
Since the demise of Ansett Australia in 2002, Star Alliance has had a hole in the Australian market which Virgin Blue would fill in nicely, but as was demonstrated by Aer Lingus’s booting from OneWorld when they embraced a low-cost, Ryanair-style model on intra-Europe flights, I question how a low-cost carrier (premium economy or economy only–no business class) would fit in with Star Alliance.
I’ve flown both Air New Zealand and Virgin Blue and had positive experiences on both airlines. Both airlines seem to have dedicated and energetic crews (perhaps a little too laid back for my tastes with NZ’s racy advertisements and DJ FA’s greeting all passengers by first name as they boarded) who I think would work well together. That’s the most important aspect of service in my book.