Sir Richard Branson, flew all the way from Europe to Melbourne this week to pose in front of Chinese dragons and help Virgin Australia launch its first foray into Greater China.

The carrier’s new Melbourne-Hong Kong route received a true Virgin Australia-style takeoff when Branson led a 32-metre local Bendigo dragon Yar Loong complete with lion dancers and drummers through Melbourne International Airport at 9.40am.

Celebrations caused such a scene at the gateway that witnesses are still deciding whether the Hong Kong launch was bigger and better than April’s epic Melbourne-L.A. launch.

Virgin launch 1 - Sir Richard Branson and dragon

The new service comes a year after a large portion of Virgin Australia’s shares were sold by Air New Zealand to Chinese investors.

As part of the purchase, Virgin Australia agreed to expand its network into China, with Melbourne-Hong Kong being the inaugural route.

Operating five times weekly on the airline’s Airbus A330-200, the service will introduce 275 seats on the route, including 20 in the award-winning Business Class suites, ‘The Business‘, and 255 in Economy.


Sir Richard Branson said Virgin Australia is shaking things up on the Melbourne-Hong Kong route, which has been “far too cosy with just airlines flying it”.

Virgin Australia Group Chief Executive and Managing Director, John Borghetti concurred, saying that immediately after flights went on sale, competitors started discounting their fares by as much as 34 percent.

Virgin launch 2 - Sir Richard Branson

Guests on board the inaugural flight were treated to traditional egg tarts and Old Town Central walking guides at the boarding gate, Cantonese lessons conducted on board with Sir Richard Branson, fortune cookies, and a Hong Kong-inspired menu.

Virgin Australia’s resident chef Luke Mangan also travelled on the inaugural flight, taking Business Class guests through the new menu which has been designed to highlight Hong Kong’s culinary delights, with dishes such as pork and shrimp wonton soup with bok choy and bamboo shoots.

Virgin Australia’s domestic lounge in Melbourne will receive its only touch of Hong Kong spirit from 7 July with the addition of a Dim Sum station between 11am-2pm with a selection of steamed and fried dim sum; crispy battered sweet and sour pork and special fried rice between 5.30-7.30pm; daily house baked traditional egg tarts; and a green tea station.

Do you think Virgin Australia’s China services will shake things up?