For years, flights between Australia and the United States have been dominated by the Qantas and United Airlines duopoly due to an agreement between the two countries that limited any other airlines flying the route to only four flights per week. This severely limited competition on the route, drove up prices and resulted in poor service, to the extent that serious travellers would only fly with Qantas.
Now, with a new government in Australia, a new open skies agreement has been struck between the two countries, and there are no longer any restrictions on flights for any Australian or US airlines.
Virgin Blue has been planning to fly on this route for a while now, and will commence services towards the end of this year under the banner of V Australia.
The new agreement, however, will not remove restrictions on airlines from other countries on the US-Australia route. Singapore Airlines has long wanted to fly a Sydney to Los Angeles service, but is still hamstrung by Australia’s refusal to allow such a move.
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I’ve just emerged from a three-hour trip from Melbourne to the north-eastern Victoria. It’s ski season, here in the high-country, and being a Friday evening, the bus was packed to the brim with skiers planning a weekend at Mt Buller.
Bus travel is generally unpleasant even at the best of times. The best someone can hope for is that the trip is short, that it isn’t crowded and that the bus-driver doesn’t decide to put on a blaring video to keep passengers amused.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. The person sitting next to me fell asleep and his head crashed onto my shoulder every few minutes, for the first half of the journey and the driver decided to turn up the heating to sauna levels, until someone pleaded with him to turn it down.
I’ve long been of the mind that travel isn’t just about being somewhere; half the fun is getting there, too. Bus travel kills this notion. There’s just nothing to enjoy about being crowded into a seat with no leg room, whilst dealing with the smell of your fellow passengers and the cleaning chemicals from the tiny toilet at the back of the vehicle and worrying about your luggage being stolen from the underneath compartment at stops along the route.
The sad part of this is that thirty years ago, there was a railway line from Melbourne to this area, but unfortunately, it was removed by a shortsighted government for minor economic gain. With the number of people coming to the area to ski now, the line would make a very welcome alternative to a pretty horrible bus journey.
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It’s probably far from the best time to be considering a visit to Fiji, in the wake of a relatively coup, and recent diplomatic incidents between the military government and New Zealand, but that hasn’t stopped The Christchurch Press from visiting to see what Suva has to offer. The Star Times notes that New Zealanders remain unfazed by the latest bout of strife, between the two countries.
There are twelve flights a week to Suva from Auckland, four from Brisbane, one from Christchurch, three from Honolulu, eight from Los Angeles, four from Melbourne, eleven from Sydney, one from Toyko and two from Vancouver, all with Fiji’s national airline, Air Pacific.
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