Virgin Blue played the Melbourne versus Sydney card hard today when it came to international flights by its V Australia subsidiary.

It announced plans for non-stop Boeing 777 flights from Melbourne to Johannesburg from next March, cutting out the many hours of stuffing around Melburnians experience flying Qantas, which has enjoyed an iron grip on the South Africa route for nearly 60 years.

Sydney Airport transfers from its domestic to international sides are like the Berlin Wall used to be for getting from one side of Berlin to the other, but minus the barbed wire and machine guns.

Using Sydney for overseas flights is for non-Sydney residents a huge but lucrative imposition by Qantas for destinations where it has no competitors offering non-stops from their own cities. But not from next March. No more flying backwards to Sydney for 90 minutes just to wait for a transfer to the other side and join another line and go through more security to just get to the start of a 13 hour flight.

V Australia will also start non-stop Los Angeles flights from Melbourne in December, and add a weekly non-stop on the same 777s to Phuket, Thailand in the same month.

The “phase two” expansion of the V Australia network will also include flights to Fiji if an application for capacity on those routes is granted by the International Air Services Commission.

The result of all of these new routes will be to lift average daily flight hours by the V Australia 777-300ERs to 17 hours a day, equal to or better than the utilisation the same type yields for Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates, and about 4 hours a day more revenue service than Qantas claims for its aging 747-400 fleet.

Another awkward aspect for Qantas in the plans announced today is that Fiji and Phuket are important routes for its Jetstar tight fit low cost carrier and its investment in Fiji flag carrier Air Pacific.

Neither Jetstar nor Air Pacific offer the much larger economy class seats of the 777, which will also come with premium economy and business class cabins designed for 14-15 hour flights to the US.

One certain result will be the extension of the fare cutting the extra competition that V Australia and Delta caused on the America routes to spread to South Africa, which as far as the east coast capitals of Australia has been concerned, has long been over priced and inconvenient.