New Grbac Uniform
This morning at 10am, Virgin Blue officially unveiled its new uniform to the public at Sydney Tower Westfields after the closely guarded secret was maintained by several thousand staff. Despite the airline crew addiction to social media and extroverted behaviour – as well as a company booklet issued to crew full of pictures that detailed how the uniform was to be worn – crew managed to supress the majority of information from mainstream press. Perhaps it was the secrecy agreement that was signed upon retrieving the uniform (with the threat of termination should it be discovered information was leaked) that managed to keep staff tight-lipped (which, as we know, is a hard ask from airline staff that thrive on gossip, rumour and news). Once known as the “frat-house” for their inability to keep a secret, Borghetti has done quite a good job of ensuring confidentiality within the ranks of VB with regard to commercially sensitive company operations.
Female cabin crew will wear an above-knee-length cherry red dress or skirt with a white blouse. A thin black belt provides definition. The typical Virgin red was darkened a little to more closely match a broader range of skin tones.
The uniform is somewhat more functional than the heshen sack previously worn (or “Godfrey Gear”, as it’s become known). There are narrow cuts in the sleeve of the loose shirt to allow a freedom of movement when reaching for the overhead bins and there’s a notable absence of buttons that crew regularly reported would come undone. Grbac says that “… it was challenging to take practicality into account while keeping it looking as beautiful as possible”, and says that the uniform represents the “glamour days of the 1960′s.”
Gentleman will wear a three-piece suit comprising of charcoal pants and navy jacket. The pilots wear a more traditional uniform with a straight cut suit, RM Williams Boots and dark tie. The uniform has a distinct Virgin Atlantic feel… keeping consistent with the Virgin brand – and it provides some subtle clues as to what we can expect from the re-branding which will be announced prior to June 30th.
Queensland fashion designer Juli Grbac was chosen to create the uniform. According to Wikipedia, “… [Grbac] started her own label Grbac in 2002. Juli then opened a store in the TC Beirne Centre in Fortitude Valley’s Brunswick Street Mall, but closed it two years later. She works from the basement in her mother’s house, and imports the designs all over Australia. Her collection consists of long, silky, feminine dresses.” In 2008, Grbac went on to win Project Runway Australia.
Grbac’s husband is a Flight Attendant with V Australia which gave her constructive insight from crew throughout the design process. There’s little doubt that this event has put Grbac on the map, and it’ll invariably pave the way for her to pay more attention to her creative process in the future unencumbered by her former relative obscurity. We’ll play an audio chat with Juli in our upcoming Australian podcast – yet to be named!
It’s not the first time an airline has enlisted the help of a fashion designer. In 2003, Peter Morrissey debuted his collection for Qantas and, more recently, Trelise Cooper released her Air New Zealand concept designs to mixed reviews.
Uniform ambassador Elle McPherson strutted the runway in a female co-pilot uniform. The 60 Virgin staff selected to represent the airline were chosen based on nothing more than availability. They’re all waiting to undertake A330 training so they truly represent the average crew in all shapes and sizes (as all uniforms should be represented).
Virgin Blue – “Advancing the Game Change Program”
Virgin Blue has released its Half Yearly Results (6 months ending December 2010). No serious surprises… and it does little to satisfy the curious minds of global avgeeks that eagerly await group-wide branding strategies.
A330 Business Configuration
Virgin Blue unveiled its new A330-200 Business Class offering. Business Class will have a full in-flight meal service with the specifics of blunt end of the aircraft yet to be announced. The aircraft will feature a near-flat 62″ pitch in business – a full 2 inches more than the Qantas and Emirates offering. The Qantas 332 has a 35-37″ offering on its 330 domestic fleet. Qantas has a 60″ seat on its 747-400 fleet (and a 79″ in first class).
[myquote from="John Borghetti"]With our competitive pricing strategy, we believe this will be a compelling proposition for corporate travellers, whether they travel in business or economy class[/myquote]
The introduction of Virgin Blue’s first two A330-200s to the Sydney-Perth routes will provide a business class and a “superior economy class” (although no details are currently provided, nor is there any mention of a premium product). The carrier will commence twice-daily flights in May and thrice-daily services in June. Business class will include an unspecified IFE system and the offering in the backside of the aircraft remains an unknown… particularly since Virgin Blue is reportedly unable to resolve issues with the implementation of the RED system into its 737 domestic fleet.
The Virgin Blue A330 product is superior in virtually every regard compared to the comparable Qantas offering… and one can’t help but see the one-upmanship as a stab at Borghetti’s former employer.
Borghetti ruled out the possibility of an Asian route although common sense has to prevail when it comes down to making sensible predictions – particularly since there’s a number of additional aircraft due to arrive over the next 24 months.
Virgin Blue has orders for 18 68-seat ATR72′s to replace its existing Embraer 170 fleet. The first four will be introduced mid-2011 with an additional four aircraft next year. The ATR offers a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency over the Dash-8 and is described by Borghetti as “… the perfect regional turboprop”.
The Australian Virgin brand remains one of aviation’s best kept secrets. Borghetti remarked at the Sydney conference that the product offering could include “… perhaps four brands, maybe 3, maybe 2, maybe 1. All will be revealed prior to June 30 this year.
Disclaimer: As always, it should be known that the author is an employee of the Virgin Group. Opinion is my own and I have no insight or knowledge of groups activities beyond what is documented in financial reports.
- Welcome Virgin Australia – Pictures
- Will Virgin Blue re-brand as Virgin Australia?
- Virgin Blue and Air New Zealand Alliance
- World Airline Awards 2008 (Qantas & Virgin Blue)
- Virgin Atlantic’s Charity Event at The Ivy, Sydney
- V Australia – more pics and new TV campaign
- New Virgin Blue TV campaign: Where Great Ideas Fly’