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Virgin Australia aims to launch new Asian service in 2018

Virgin Australia is working to secure slots that would allow it to launch a new Asian destination in 2018.

Speaking to reporters in a teleconference following the airline’s annual general meeting, chief executive John Borghetti says the airline is keen to add a second Asian route in addition to its Melbourne-Hong Kong services.

“We’ve got the aircraft, we’re just missing slots and we’re just working on that,” he says.”I’d like to think that by this time next year we will have slots.”

Borghetti would not be drawn into discussing which cities the airline is looking at, although it already holds rights to fly daily services to mainland China from Australia’s major cities.

Previously, he has pointed to the shortage of slots at Beijing Capital International and Shanghai Pudong International airports as factors that have stopped it from moving ahead with launching China services.

Any new services to Asia will be operated by the carrier’s fleet of six Airbus A330-200s.

Borghetti says that the carrier’s five-times weekly Melbourne-Hong Kong services, which will rise to daily from 12 November, have been performing well.

“The loads are good; I’m very happy with how our Hong Kong services are going.”

He attributes the success in large part to its strategic alliance with several HNA Group airlines, including Hong Kong Airlines, with which it has an interline agreement. Borghetti says he was surprised to see the how many passengers have connected onto Virgin's services in Hong Kong from mainland China due to its tie-up with Hong Kong Airlines.

Virgin is 19% owned by HNA Group.

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