Middle Eastern carrier Etihad Airways is tying up with Virgin Blue Group in order to offer a combined network centred on services between Abu Dhabi and Australia.

The partnership between Etihad and Virgin's V Australia will provide twice-daily links between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, daily flights to Melbourne and six-times weekly services to Brisbane.

It will take effect from 1 October, at which point customers on Virgin Blue carriers will have access to Etihad's network of 65 destinations while, in turn, the Virgin Blue operation will offer 44 Asia-Pacific cities to Etihad passengers.

"Etihad will gain access to the valuable domestic feed in Australia and the Virgin Blue Group will gain eastbound access to an extensive international network serving multiple destinations," says Virgin Blue Group chief John Borghetti.

The pact will also integrate the two airline operations' frequent-flyer schemes, the partners add.

"Australia is a critically important market for Etihad and we are very pleased to be able to provide more capacity on our Australian routes through this partnership," says Etihad chief James Hogan.

V Australia is to start operating three weekly Sydney-Abu Dhabi services from February 2011 and three weekly Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services by February 2012, using Boeing 777-300ERs.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news