Despite the new alliance between Qatar Airways and Virgin Australia, long-standing Virgin partner Etihad Airways says there will be no changes to its relationship with the Australian carrier.
“Etihad and Virgin Australia’s partnership remains strong and continues to provide value to Australian travellers, as well as Virgin Velocity and Etihad Guest members,” a spokesman for the Abu Dhabi-based airline tells Executive Traveller.
“There will be no changes for Etihad Guest or Velocity members, who will continue to enjoy aligned reciprocal tier benefits and lounge access globally.”
Australia ranks among of Etihad Guest’s top five markets for membership and “member engagement”, buoyed by a partnership with Virgin Australia stretching back to 2010.
Indeed, under former CEO James Hogan, Etihad was a major investor in Virgin, holding a 21% stake which was wiped out when Virgin entered administration in 2020 and subsequently bought by Bain Capital.
Etihad recently marked 15 years of flights to Australia, and currently runs daily services to Sydney and Melbourne, although it has bailed on Brisbane – a move which is believed to have let Qatar add the Queensland capital to its network.
In June, Etihad’s Sydney flights will be upgraded to a Boeing 777, putting more seats in the sky as demand continues to grow.
The airline has also added the Airbus A350 to its fleet, boasting an all-new business class with sliding privacy doors, while an evolution of these Business Studio suites is slated for the next wave of Boeing 787-9s due for delivery from 2023.