Virgin Blue is to start international flights from Australia "within a year", and consider an Australian stock exchange listing within two, says Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group chairman. Australian transport and logistics giant Patrick Corp has sealed its A$260 million ($139 million) purchase of 50% of Branson's Virgin Blue, describing a take-over as "possible".

Branson wants a direct Australia-Europe link with Virgin Atlantic, and is talking to the authorities about Asian routes. "We must decide if Virgin Atlantic flies all the way to Australia, or Virgin Blue meets it in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Tokyo," he says. New Zealand would be one of Virgin Blue's first destinations, with Bali possibly another.

Virgin Blue also wants to boost domestic market share from 12.5% to 50% in five years, and will decide by July on an Airbus or Boeing 30-40 aircraft order.

Source: Flight International