Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thongs and Vegemite to take flight on V Australia

THONGS, Vegemite and salt and pepper shakers in the shape of the Sydney Opera House will feature on flights by the nation's newest international airline as part of an assault on Qantas's claim to be the spirit of Australia.

V Australia will also offer a women-only toilet as it seeks to differentiate itself from its competitors.

"Men don't often get it right and I felt sorry for women on aeroplanes so I made it clear I wanted a women's-only lav," Virgin Blue Group chief executive Brett Godfrey said yesterday as the first of seven, 360-seat Boeing 777 aircraft ordered by the airline landed in Sydney.

The aircraft will undergo a series of proving flights for an operating licence before an entry into service scheduled for February 27.

The airline has already caused heartache for the flying kangaroo with a series of launch fares that have reduced ticket prices for its trans-Pacific economy, premium economy and business class seats by up to 40per cent.

This includes business class launch fares of $5999 return, premium economy fares of $2499 and economy fares of $1199.

It has also revealed it will fly direct to Los Angeles from Melbourne, in addition to Sydney and Brisbane, and has predicted price wars on US routes are likely to continue into next year.

The airline is also staking its claim to a slice of the national identity with the Australian flag etched on its silver hull, the Southern Cross on its tail and the trademark flag-carrying Virgin girl on its nose.

Flyers will find Vegemite as part of the breakfast menu and wall coverings with Australian icons hidden in its designs.

The Southern Cross also features in a night sky above the aircraft's sit-down business-class bar.

Mr Godfrey said the airline had been able to bring a "breath of fresh air" to the market by looking at the best offerings from other airlines and being able to plan from scratch.

While conceding Qantas was a national icon, he said V Australia was seeking a contemporary Australian image as opposed to the more traditional image projected by Qantas.

He said thongs would be issued to business-class passengers.

"That is just so bloody Australian," he said. "I think those sorts of things will show a sense of humour ... and we're not like the other guys."

Full news at theAustralian

Stimulus cheques including $900 bonus will be mailed out beginning March, says Wayne Swan

TREASURER Wayne Swan says the one-off payments that form part of the government's economic stimulus package will be mailed out to all those eligible within two months.

The government's $42 billion economic stimulus package, which is aimed at staving off a recession, was passed by parliament on Friday.

Mr Swan said the first one-off bonuses, including the $900 single-income family bonus for families with one main earner, would be delivered by Centrelink from March 11.

The $950 back-to-school bonus, aimed at helping families with school age children with the costs of starting the 2009 school year, would also be mailed then.

Tax bonuses, of up to $900, for working Australians would be delivered from April 6, and people wanting to insulate their home could do so from July 1 by phoning 1800 808 751, said Mr Swan.

He said overnight figures from the European and US economies proved the urgent need for the government to provide "vital support'' to Australia's economy.

"What is going on internationally does demand urgent action from the Australian government,'' Mr Swan told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.

"Overnight we've seen figures from the European community where the eurozone has shrunk in the December quarter by 1.5 per cent, that comes on figures last week where the shrinkage in the US economy in the December quarter was 1.0 per cent.

"What we've got to do now is to roll up our sleeves, get on with the job of supporting households and businesses, and above all supporting jobs,'' Mr Swan said.

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