Etihad outlines Australian expansion plans

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Etihad Airways will increase frequencies, add a new service and new airport facilities as part of a major expansion in Australia.

The carrier plans to launch an Abu Dhabi-Perth service within the next three years, raise frequencies to Brisbane and Melbourne, and will deploy Airbus A380s on services to Sydney and Melbourne after taking delivery of the aircraft type, chief executive James Hogan said at a conference in Sydney.

Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database shows the airline is scheduled to receive three Airbus A380s by the end of 2014. Etihad will also begin construction of premium lounges at Sydney and Melbourne airports in 2014.

Hogan also noted how important its equity alliance with Virgin Australia is as part of its wider network.

"The Virgin Australia partnership enables us to connect with 45 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, while we reciprocate by providing connections via our Abu Dhabi hub to a wide range of destinations in Europe, UK, Ireland and Africa," he says.

Etihad has been increasing its stake in Virgin Australia, after obtaining approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board to raise its shareholding to 19.9%.

Innovata schedules show Etihad Airways operates a total of 25 weekly flights between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Virgin Australia also operates thrice weekly Sydney-Abu Dhabi services.