Virgin Australia is taking steps to ramp up its product offering on Australia-New Zealand routes, in preparation for increased competition when its partnership with Air New Zealand ends.

The airline has announced it will start including meals and checked baggage in its base fares in the Australia-New Zealand market, and will introduce onboard Wi-Fi on these flights. It will also start codesharing on a Singapore Airlines (SIA) service between the two countries. These changes will take effect from Oct. 28.

Virgin has had a joint venture partnership with Air New Zealand on these routes since 2010. However, the pair are not renewing their arrangement when it expires at the end of October. This has prompted the airlines to position themselves to compete separately, including launching or retiming flights.

In its latest move, Virgin is looking to gain a competitive advantage through product enhancements. All of its New Zealand flights will have Wi-Fi from Oct. 28, although it will be available on some flights before then. Virgin said it will be the first carrier offering Wi-Fi on all Australia-New Zealand routes. The first 15 min. of usage will be complimentary and after that an A$12.99 ($9.62) fee will apply.

Virgin currently does not include meals or a checked bag in its lowest base fares for Australia-New Zealand flights, although they are free in higher-priced fare categories. This helped align Virgin with the Air New Zealand fare structure in this market. However, from October the Virgin base fares will include “a substantial meal and drink.”

The carrier has base fares without meals or checked bags in other short-haul international markets, such as Fiji and Bali, Indonesia, and they will also change to be all-inclusive. Virgin’s fares already include these features in most of its international and domestic markets.

Virgin will codeshare on SIA’s flights between Melbourne, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand. This will allow it to add another route to its network without using its own aircraft. SIA already codeshares on several of Virgin’s Australia-New Zealand routes.

The Australian airline will also improve loyalty program earning rates in this market.

Adrian Schofield, adrian.schofield@informa.com