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Interim Approval for Virgin Blue - Etihad Airways Alliance

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The Virgin Blue Group has received interim approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for its alliance with Etihad Airways.

The approval by the ACCC means the airlines will be able to sell airfares between Australia and Abu Dhabi with connections on Etihad’s extensive network from 1 October 2010.

“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,” said Virgin Blue Group CEO and Managing Director, John Borghetti. “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.”

Together, Etihad and V Australia will move towards a total of 27 weekly services between Abu Dhabi and Australia – including double- daily services between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, daily Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights and six frequencies per week between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane.

Subject to obtaining final regulatory approval from the ACCC, V Australia will operate three Sydney-Abu Dhabi services per week from February 2011 and three Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services per week from February 2012, using its new fleet of three-class Boeing 777-300ER.

From 1 October, Virgin Blue Group customers can access Etihad’s network of 65 destinations across North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Subcontinent.

All Virgin Blue Group services will also be available to Etihad customers, opening up 45 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and to Asia and Los Angeles.

The alliance also integrates the Etihad Guest and Velocity frequent flyer programs, allowing members to earn status/tier points and frequent flyer points immediately along with reciprocal service benefits and lounge access for top tier members of both programs. The ability for members to burn miles on both carriers’ services comes into effect from 1 October 2010.

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