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Virgin Blue and Etihad tie-up gets green light from ACCC

By James Wilkinson

The proposed alliance between Virgin Blue and Etihad Airways has received interim approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Take off for Virgin Blue and Etihad’s alliance

The move bodes well for the business tourism market, with an expected pick-up of deals in the market for flights to Abu Dhabi and beyond.

Virgin Blue Group CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti said the approval by the ACCC meant the airlines would commence selling airfares between Australia and Abu Dhabi, and on onward flights to 65 destinations on Etihad’s network, from October 1.

“The Virgin Blue Group of Airlines will now be able to deliver an alternative and competitive network to the Middle East, Europe, United Kingdom and beyond,” Borghetti said.

“This is an important milestone as we create a global international network, greater competition on the international landscape and benefit our guests with great value fares, better scheduling and more choice,” he said.

Borghetti said once final regulatory approval from the ACCC was obtained, Virgin Blue’s international carrier V Australia would commence thrice-weekly Sydney-Abu Dhabi services (from February 2011) and Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services (from February 2012), using three-class Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Airfares across both networks go on sale on Oct 1

Once the V Australia flights commence, together, Etihad and V Australia would operate a total of 27 weekly services between Abu Dhabi and Australia – double-daily services between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, daily Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights and six flights per week between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane.

The partnership is also a win for tourism operators in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, thanks to all Virgin Blue Group services becoming available to Etihad customers, opening up 45 destinations in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Asia and Los Angeles.