BY JAMES WILKINSON
The inaugural V Australia flight has taken off for Abu Dhabi this afternoon, marking the first time in 20 years an Australian airline has flown to the Middle East.
V Australia has launched flights to Abu Dhabi
V Australia will operate thrice-weekly services on the route, which is being launched in partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.
“Australian travellers will now be able to fly one-stop to more than 14 destinations in Europe and the United Kingdom with a quick one-stop service,” says Virgin Blue CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti.
“This means a range of more convenient travel options for Australians, more competition on key international routes and more opportunities for Virgin Blue and Etihad customers to earn frequent flyer points and status credits,” he says.
Etihad and V Australia will offer a combined 27 weekly flights between Australia (Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney) and Abu Dhabi, with seamless connections then offered across the Middle Eastern carrier’s network.
“Since its launch in 2009, the award-winning V Australia service has changed the game for Australians travelling to the United States, providing a high-quality, competitive travel option. And that’s exactly what we’re looking to do with our new Abu-Dhabi service,” Borghetti says.
“IATA recently forecasted the Middle East as the top region for international passenger demand growth in the world at 9.4% over the next three years.”
Borghetti was joined on the inaugural flight by the Australian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Doug Trappett, Virgin Blue Group’s new ambassador and Australian Olympian Ian Thorpe (who is training in Abu Dhabi in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic trials) and Etihad CEO James Hogan.
“Etihad Airways and the emirate of Abu Dhabi eagerly await the arrival of the inaugural V Australia flight,” Hogan says.
“Already, the response to our network partnership has been very positive. Forward bookings are strong and we are seeing increased strength in the market with the capability of round-the-world connectivity.
“Etihad deploys more than 15 per cent of its entire global network seat kilometres to Australia and we are committed to driving long-term, incremental inbound tourism growth to this market, and to offering greater choice and competition for inbound and outbound travelers,” he says.
On the back of the Sydney launch, V Australia will inaugurate flights from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi in early 2012.