The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has made a draft determination granting approval for Virgin Blue’s alliance with Etihad.
“The ACCC considers that the Alliance is likely to promote competition and result in benefits for Australian consumers through new international services and increased online connections,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.
Under the alliance, Etihad and Virgin Blue will cooperate on joint pricing and scheduling of services between Australia and Etihad’s homebase of Abu Dhabi. Eithad and Virgin Blue subsidiary V Australia will codeshare on their services between Australia and Abu Dhabi, with Virgin Blue/V Australia codesharing on Etihad onward services to Europe. V Australia is due to commence direct services from Sydney to Abu Dhabi three times per week in February 2011 and three Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services per week by February 2012.
“The Etihad partnership will see us establishing an international hub in Abu Dhabi,” said Virgin Blue CEO John Borghetti. “This will allow us to offer corporate and leisure travellers a very attractive one-stop alternative to more than 14 destinations in Europe, plus the Middle East and Africa without backtracking or going via Heathrow. Guests will also enjoy mutual frequent flyer earn and redemption capability and a global frequent flyer program.”
The ACCC says it will now seek further submissions from the applicants and interested parties regarding the draft determination prior to making a final decision.
The draft decision came on the same day the ACCC granted conditional approval for Virgin Blue’s planned alliance with Air New Zealand.