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* V Australia commences service from Abu Dhabi to Sydney three times a week

* Provides direct access to Virgin Blue’s extensive Australian domestic network and Pacific Blue’s network in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu

* Customers benefit from fully reciprocal Etihad Guest and Velocity frequent flyer programs

Australia-based Virgin Blue Group of Airlines yesterday launched its inaugural V Australia flight to Abu Dhabi, becoming the first Australian carrier to operate to the Middle East in 20 years.

Arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport at 11.40pm GST last night, the Sydney-Abu Dhabi service included Virgin Blue Group CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti and Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan, along with the Australian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Mr Doug Trappett, and Virgin Blue Group’s new ambassador and one of the world’s most successful swimmers, Ian Thorpe, who has come to Abu Dhabi to continue training for the 2012 Olympic trials.

The V Australia and Etihad delegations were welcomed by Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) CEO, James E. Bennett and the Senior Vice President of Airports Operations at ADAC Ahmad Al Haddabi, along with senior representatives from the airport and the home carrier.

The new V Australia Abu Dhabi service is a key part of the partnership between Virgin Blue Group of Airlines and Etihad Airways which will see the airlines offer 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.

Virgin Blue CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti said that Australians were very excited about the new V Australia service and that the UAE would also benefit significantly.

“Since its launch in 2009, the award-winning V Australia service has provided a high-quality, competitive travel option for travellers on trans-pacific routes and we’re very pleased to bring our service to Abu Dhabi,” Mr Borghetti said.

“Etihad Airways has been doing a great job of promoting Abu Dhabi as a budding destination for Australian tourists and a stepping stone to Europe and beyond. Having a home-grown Australian airline offer services to the Middle East will build upon those efforts and help to increase the profile of the UAE in Australia.

“In addition to offering customers more flights to and from Australia, our partnership with Etihad Airways will provide access to Virgin Blue’s extensive Australian domestic network and Pacific Blue’s network in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu. This means that Etihad and V Australia guests will be able to earn frequent flyer points and status credits on our networks and receive reciprocal lounge and service benefits,” Mr Borghetti said.


Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said: “V Australia is the first Australian airline ever to serve the United Arab Emirates. That is no small matter, and is certainly a reflection of the growing strength and relevance of the Australia-UAE relationship.

“In partnering with Virgin Blue, Etihad is supporting the Government of Abu Dhabi’s vision for the emirate by generating stronger inbound business and leisure traffic flows.

“Equally, the increased capacity into Australia will help us in achieving greater commercial scale, driving higher loads and yields on the African, European and Middle Eastern side of our network.”

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) Chief Executive Officer James E. Bennett stated: “ADAC is pleased to welcome V Australia to its airlines’ portfolio as the first new addition for 2011 at Abu Dhabi International Airport.  V Australia is recognised for its high quality service, in line with the levels of service we promise our travellers at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

“We applaud this partnership between Etihad Airways and V Australia as it paves the way for further development, improving the offer of choice and convenience to our clients, not only to Australia, but to our whole network.”

V Australia now operates three Sydney-Abu Dhabi services per week and will operate an additional three Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services per week by February 2012, using its new fleet of three-class economically and environmentally efficient Boeing 777-300ERs. VA29 flies from Sydney to Abu Dhabi on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing at 4.05pm and VA30 flies from Abu Dhabi to Sydney on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, departing at 10.45am.

Virgin Blue Group’s partnership with Etihad Airways delivers a combined global network of more than 150 destinations worldwide. This partnership is a key part of Virgin Blue Group’s plans to build an international network of airline partners that can provide global coverage along with frequent flyer earn and redemption capabilities to benefit guests.

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