Etihad Airways chief executive James Hogan has revealed plans for a significant expansion of his Abu Dhabi-based airline’s presence in Australia, including A380 services to Sydney and Melbourne, new airport lounges, and plans to increase its stake in Virgin Australia to almost 20 per cent.
Hogan outlined the plans at the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit in Sydney today. As well as A380 flights to Sydney and Melbourne, Etihad will also add additional flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to Abu Dhabi, commence nonstop Perth-Abu Dhabi flights, and build premium airport lounges at Sydney and Melbourne from 2014.
But it is the confirmation of plans to double its stake in Virgin Australia that highlights the importance Etihad places on the Australian market.
“Virgin Australia is a key member of our ever-expanding airline equity alliance, and Etihad Airways is an active and long-term investor in Virgin,” Hogan said.
“The Virgin Australia partnership enables us to connect with 45 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia, while we reciprocate by providing connections via our Abu Dhabi hub to a wide range of destinations in Europe, UK, Ireland and Africa.”
Etihad currently holds a 10 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, and recently gained Foreign Investment Review Board approval to raise that to 19.9 per cent. Etihad also has equity stakes in airBerlin, Aer Lingus and Air Seychelles, has announced plans to acquire a 49 per cent stake in Air Serbia, and is awaiting regulatory approval for a 24 per cent stake in India’s Jet Airways.
Noted the Australian-born Etihad boss: “We have a significant presence in Australia, with 28 weekly departures, annual expenditure of over $100 million, direct employment of 106 staff and engagement of 415 local contractors.”
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