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VAustralia vows to beat international ban  Sep 04, 2008

VAustralia is confident it has found a way to sell its tickets through Australian travel agents without using the International Air Transport Association's clearing house.

VAustralia cannot sell tickets through IATA's Billing & Settlement Plan (BSP) until it gets its air operator's certificate. The BSP is a worldwide system that assists settlement for airlines and agents in about 160 countries and territories.

More than 80 per cent of worldwide airline revenues are ticketed by IATA travel agencies in the system.

IATA has told Virgin it is sticking by its rules, despite the fact that the airline has the support of the governments on both sides of the Pacific and it is able to sell to US travel agents through another settlement system, ARC.

VAustralia general manager Scott Swift said that the airline was continuing to open new sales channels despite IATA's refusal.

"We've obviously been a little frustrated with IATA ... we're hoping to announce something in the very near future with our travel trade and open up those distribution channels without the use of IATA's clearing house and their BSP," he said.

"But our other channels are going quite well. Some of the channels are ahead of where we expected them to be at this stage."

Mr Swift said VAustralia would be ramping up its advertising and brand awareness campaign as it headed towards its December 15 launch.

The airline has announced it will fly to Los Angeles from Brisbane and Sydney and is looking at services to South Africa next year and another destination, which is yet to be revealed.

"Everything's moving forward," he said. "Our first cabin crew group has started (training) and we have 10 groups going through to the end of the year.

"We had our first relief crew go through the simulator and first officers and captains are starting training."

Mr Swift said there was still a long list of things to do, including some redevelopment at Los Angeles International Airport.

The airline this week unveiled the business class seats and bars that it will install in business and economy.

The 21-inch-wide seat in the business class will fold down into a 77-inch flat bed and has a generous 78-inch seat pitch. It will come with the latest Panasonic in-flight entertainment system and a new 12.2-inch touch-screen monitor.

There will be 33 of the seats on the airline's 777 aircraft in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Mr Swift said the desire to have a lie-flat bed was a driving factor in the airline's choice of seats.

"It's the new way forward with international travel," he said. "If people fly 14 hours, they want a bed and somewhere to sleep and that's what they're paying a lot of money for."

The new VBar, which will be installed in its business and premium economy cabins, will allow people to sit and have a drink under a dome that will simulate Australia's night sky.

"It'll a great place for our business guests to sit around and have a chat," Mr Swift said. "You can fit a full plate there, you can have a meal, have a beer before returning to bed."

VAustralia vows to beat international ban

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