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The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.


For too long, the coveted non-stop Sydney to Los Angeles route has been monopolized by two airlines -- Qantas and United and frankly neither of them care to offer discounts when I want to fly. In particular, going home for the Australian summer, which happens to correspond with Christmas and New Year has always been torturous; flights are always full, you can't use frequent flyer points and the airfares can be almost double compared to low season. Finally my knight in shining armor has arrived in the form of a real knight -- Sir Richard. And just like the gallant knights of olde, Sir Richard is making many of my mortal wishes come true, promising me the opportunity to fly home in Virgin style and comfort and not have to pay through the nose to do so.

This week saw the launch of V Australia (www.vaustralia.com), the international service of Australia's Virgin Blue airlines thanks to the new Open Skies policy. Starting in December, 2008, V Australia will be flying its brand-spanking new Boeing 777-300ER aircrafts daily between Los Angeles and Sydney and promotional round-trip airfares start at around $905 including taxes (or $1,143 to Melbourne, $1,184 to Brisbane, $1,506 to Perth etc).

I know what you are thinking -- you can never actually find those promotional fares when you go to book your flight. Fear not, I just completed several searches for December 2008 and January 2009 -- and you can definitely find these fares. The website lets you cleverly choose your dates and destinations and then look at a series of tabs that inform you what the lowest fares would be a few days either side of your selected date (currently you can only search and book for flights from December 15, 2008 to March 15, 2009). The airline will have the traditional three classes of service plus even without these initial promotional fares, the airline promises to offer every day economy fares that will start from $1,734 round-trip including taxes, which is 16% lower than any other advertised fare on the other two airlines.

To keep things fair, I did a quick search on Qantas (www.qantas.com) and United (www.united.com) to see what was on offer for the same Los Angeles to Sydney sector for the December 2008 -- January 2009 timeslot. On Qantas, the cheapest fare I could find was $2,939 round-trip and on United, it was $2,989. V Australia tickets went on sale on March 31, so if you are interested in snagging an absolute Southern Hemisphere summer bargain, get to that V Australia website right now.

In this newly evolving and constantly expanding Virgin world, you can now fly Virgin America (www.virginamerica.com) across the States, connect to your V Australia flight to Sydney and then hop on board a Virgin Blue (www.virginblue.com.au) connection to more than a dozen more Australian destinations, three New Zealand ports, or five exotic destinations in the Pacific. And if you must spend Pounds and Euro, then Virgin Atlantic (www.virginatlantic.com) is always a great choice.

Not only is the addition of V Australia a healthy boost to the trans-Pacific route, but it is likely that this new and robust player will introduce some healthy and much needed competition into the market and gently nudge the two big players into reducing their fares. Thank you Sir Richard!