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Virgin Australia to continue shunning major alliances

Virgin Australia remains focused on its bilateral tie-ups in key markets rather than seeking to participate in any of the major alliances, even with some of them now offering second-tier memberships.

Speaking to FlightGlobal in an interview on the sidelines of the IATA annual general meeting in Cancun, Virgin Australia Airlines group executive John Thomas said the airline "totally believes in bilaterals" and had no interest in becoming a 'connecting partner' of any of the alliances.

"We work in a win-win situation with all of our partners and we have a very close relationship with them," he says.

"With all due respects with the alliance, you just can't do that. First off, not all of them are going to be the right airlines for you, and secondly it is just very difficult to have the level of commercial intimacy that you would in a bilateral relationship."

It has major alliances with Etihad Airways covering Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Delta Air Lines on transpacific routes, and Singapore Airlines in Asia and Europe. Delta is a member of SkyTeam while SIA is in Star Alliance.

Star recently rolled out its first connecting partnership with Juneyao Airlines, which allows Star carriers to connect passengers through onto the Chinese carrier without the latter holding full membership.

With Star missing a presence in Australia, and the links via SIA, some view Virgin as a potential connecting partner for the alliance. Similarly, connecting programmes being discussed by SkyTeam could also appeal to it given its links with Delta.

Thomas is adamant, though, that even those levels of membership are not of any appeal to Virgin.

The carrier is now working on a new alliance with China's HNA Group, which will underpin the launch of its Melbourne-Hong Kong services in July. It recently received a draft regulatory clearance that will open the way for its to co-operate with Hainan Airlines and its affiliates, as well as Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines on the greater China market.

"Being able to go into Hong Kong with a partner like Hong Kong Airlines is amazing," says Thomas.

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