QANTAS has brushed off the threat of Virgin Atlantic
starting flights to Australia at the launch of its £120 million business class
cabin.

UK regional general manager Sally Martin acknowledged
Sir Richard Branson’s carrier offered a quality product but said she welcomed
the competition.

Qantas’ position has been strengthened with the launch
of the new flat bed, initially to be installed on the Heathrow to Sydney route.

Martin said: “Virgin will be one of many carriers
competing on this route, so we welcome the extra competition. It helps keep
everyone on their toes.”

Installation of the revamped cabin, which includes a
6’6″ bed, a business bar area and a new menu, will be completed on UK
services by February.

The airline has had to take 15 business seats out of
the cabin to accommodate the new beds, with prices likely to rise.

Martin said: “People are prepared to pay for
quality and a bed is going to be more expensive than a seat.”

She added Qantas hoped to renew its business class
codeshare deal with British Airways on UK to Australia routes once the
installation was complete.

She also hinted the Australian flag carrier may follow
BA by introducing 1% commission. “When the national carrier makes changes,
you have to seriously look at what they’re doing,” she said.