Boeing strike spoils Virgin’s plan

V Australia.

V Australia…delayed.

An ongoing strike at aircraft manufacturer Boeing is forcing Virgin Blue to postpone the launch of its much-anticipated long-haul international service, V Australia.

The month-old industrial dispute at Boeing’s Seattle plant saw around 27,000 workers downing tools, resulting in a delay in the delivery of three Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to the budget airline.  

The airline has been heavily advertising the launch, which was originally slated for December 15 this year. As the dispute continues with no immediate end in sight, the company nominated a tentative new V Australia launch date of 28 February 2009.

The company said it would contact all passengers booked to travel during the delayed period to offer alternative arrangements, with further advance ticket sales for travel between 15 December 2008 and 28 February 2009 suspended.

However, it said V Australia’s Brisbane-Los Angeles direct services, due to launch on 1 March 2009 were not affected.

The company said the impact of the serious delay would be addressed between the airline and Boeing, and if the industrial dispute was resolved in the short term it would act swiftly to bring forward V Australia’s start-up schedule.

The Boeing 777 aircraft to be delivered to the airline were in advanced stage production at the US plant.

Meanline, Virgin Blue has sent a $500,000 bill to Airservices Australia, requesting for a compensation for the delay of 120 of its flights at Sydney Airport.

The delay came as Airservices Australia again failed to man the air traffic control tower over the weekend, forcing the airline to find accommodation for 180 passengers in Melbourne after planes missed the curfew into Sydney, The Age reported.

“It’s been going on all year and its not getting better, it’s getting worse… it is seriously inefficient and it affects us,” a spokesperson told the paper.

Airservices was reported to have blamed the delays on controllers, who it had accused of taking sick leave without permission and refusing to work overtime.

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