Virgin Blue and Etihad Airways sign a commercial agreement, will acquire Airbus A330-200s

Virgin Blue Holdings Limited (Brisbane) and Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi) have signed an agreement establishing a commercial partnership that will enable Virgin Blue’s international arm, V Australia, to launch direct services to Abu Dhabi in 2011 and the two airlines to offer a joint network of more than 100 destinations from October 1, 2010.

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.

V Australia will operate three Sydney-Abu Dhabi services per week from February 2011 and three Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services per week by February 2012, using its new fleet of three-class Boeing 777-300ER and becoming the first Australian carrier to operate to the Middle East since 1991.

From 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 services will be available to Etihad customers, opening up 45 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and to Asia, South Africa and Los Angeles.

In other news, The Virgin Blue Group of Airlines announced the second phase of its network review with the introduction of Airbus A330-200 aircraft for its domestic network and an overhaul of its international long haul network.

The introduction of the two Airbus A330-200 will increase the fleet size to 90 aircraft. The first A330-200s will operate services between Perth and the east coast of Australia.

From February 2011, Virgin Blue will consolidate its international V Australia network to two strategic hubs in Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi providing a gateway to a truly international network through partnerships.

V Australia will withdraw from its loss making Boeing 777-300 services to South Africa and Phuket.

Copyright Photo: John Adlard. Boeing 737-8FE VH-VUA (msn 33997), decorated with the “Mile High Karaoke” markings taxies at Sydney.