Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has received interim authorisation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for its proposed strategic alliance with the Virgin Blue Group.
The ACCC approval means that from Friday 1 October Etihad Airways and Virgin Blue will offer customers a new combined global flight network, connecting passengers between Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and North America.
The approval allows Etihad and Virgin Blue to sell, market and distribute the “joint product” to customers as well as publish aligned flight schedules, which will cover more than 100 global destinations.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, said: “The ACCC decision to grant interim approval for this strategic alliance is clearly fantastic news for both Etihad and Virgin Blue and one we welcome wholeheartedly.
“Most significantly, however, it is air travellers around the world who have the most to gain from the partnership. They will have instant access to a new flight network of more than 100 destinations while being able to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles for any Etihad or Virgin Blue flight.
“We will look to expand the partnership further over time, but there can be no doubt of the positive impact this new alliance will have on the global tourism industry, especially as signs of recovery continue to emerge.”
Specifically for Etihad customers, the Virgin Blue network will open up 45 new destinations in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and the west coast of America. Passengers will be able to fly from Etihad’s home-base in Abu Dhabi to Australia and connect seamlessly to Virgin Blue destinations in the region.
Another element of the partnership is that from February 2011 Virgin Blue’s international arm, V Australia, will launch direct services to Abu Dhabi. This will mean Etihad and V Australia will operate a total of 27 weekly services between Abu Dhabi and Australia.
These services include double-daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, daily between Abu Dhabi and Melbourne, and six frequencies per week between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane.
The agreement 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 while allowing both airlines’ members to redeem points for free flights on each other’s network.