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Onboard cellphone: V Australia set to follow in Emirates' footsteps

17th February 2009 - 19:31 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


New long-haul operator V Australia is on course to become the long-awaited second user of the AeroMobile onboard cellphone service. It is also poised to offer an overall service product that will be the envy of many of the world’s leading airlines.

The carrier is owned by Australian domestic low-fare operator Virgin Blue, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. It was due to enter service last December but was forced to reschedule when the Boeing strike delayed delivery of the first of seven 777-300ERs. That aircraft – named Didgeree Blue - finally arrived a week ago and is due to go into commercial service on February 27.

V Australia is one of four airlines committed to using AeroMobile – the others are launch customer Emirates, Qantas and Saudi Arabian Airlines, while Malaysian Airlines is carrying out a trial with a view adopting the service if the results are satisfactory. V Australia says it plans to start offering AeroMobile from July, when its fourth aircraft is due to arrive.

The AeroMobile capability will be integrated with the Panasonic eX2 IFE system, a solution that the Californian manufacturer brands eXphone. It will allow passengers to send and receive text messages and email via their own mobiles and BlackBerry-type devices. 

V Australia plans initially to serve Los Angeles from Sydney, followed by Brisbane and Melbourne. Its aircraft will be outfitted for 361 passengers - 33 business, 40 premium economy and 288 economy. Facilities common to all classes include AeroMobile, IFE based on eX2 and the Red software package pioneered by Virgin America, mood lighting, and laptop power and a USB port in every seat. As on Virgin America, the Red capability will support seat-to-seat chat and food ordering as well as a wide range of entertainment.

A Virgin Group airline wouldn’t be the same without some attempt to emulate the hip-and-happening ethos of parent carrier Virgin Atlantic. So the first V Australia aircraft features Australiana – animals and symbols – in the wallpaper design, Aussie catchphrases on the crockery and a ceiling starscape. And in a move that will be welcomed by female passengers, there is a dedicated ladies’ toilet.

In economy the Koito-manufactured seats are arranged 3-3-3 at 32in pitch. Each seat has a 10.6in screen and can recline six inches. There will be a full breakfast and dinner meal service, with snacks available from a self-service kiosk.

The 20in-wide, all-leather premium economy seats, from Recaro of Germany, are laid out 2-4-2 at 38in pitch and feature 9in recline, 10.6in screens, noise-cancelling headsets and adjustable head and footrests. The premium economy cabin has its own self-service bar.

The business seats, from France’s Sicma, feature a 12.1in screen and NC headset. Configured 2-3-2 at 77in pitch, they come with privacy screens and massage function and convert into 6ft 2in fully flat beds. The business cabin has a bar offering passengers snacks and drinks at any time, while the main food service is restaurant-style, allowing selections to be made from a menu at any time.

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

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