Etihad, Virgin Australia move to maintain ties under Bain Capital

A continued partnership between the two airlines would serve international travellers when border restrictions ease.

By Chris Chamberlin, September 14 2020
Etihad, Virgin Australia move to maintain ties under Bain Capital

Etihad Airways plans to retain its partnership with Virgin Australia under the airline's new owners at Bain Capital.

This would allow the pair to continue selling each other’s flights, offering benefits to connecting passengers, and recognising elite frequent flyers as they travel across both airlines.

While some cross-airline benefits are currently on hold – such as being able to book Etihad flights using Velocity Points, or accessing Virgin Australia’s lounges via elite Etihad Guest membership (as the lounges themselves remain closed) – these issues will be addressed over time.

“As a long-term partner of Virgin Australia we’re very pleased that a successful bidder has been confirmed, securing the future for Virgin Australia and its employees,” an Etihad Airways spokesperson tells Executive Traveller, speaking of the buyout by Bain Capital.

“Building on that foundation, we look forward to working with Virgin management and Bain Capital as we continue to pursue opportunities to create value for our joint customers,” as Australia's international travel restrictions ease and other borders re-open.

Prior to Virgin Australia’s collapse into Voluntary Administration back in April, Etihad Airways held a 20.94% stake in the company, which has since been wiped out.

Even so, the two airlines will “continue to codeshare so we are able to connect passengers across Australia to our global network, and of course, retain the reciprocal partnership between Etihad Guest and Velocity Frequent Flyer,” Etihad’s spokesperson assures.

“We are proud of our network of airline partnerships, including Etihad,” a Virgin Australia spokesperson adds.

Acknowledging that “earn and redemption opportunities for international partner travel are (currently) limited, we look forward to these resuming in the future.”

This reflects the ongoing block on Velocity members using their Velocity Points to book partner airline flights, as well as Australia's ongoing travel restrictions that severely limit the ability to take international flights, including with airlines like Etihad.

Etihad Airways' Australian network

Etihad Airways is currently operating Boeing 787-9 flights from both Sydney and Melbourne to Abu Dhabi and beyond, for those who are able to travel via government exemption.

Etihad’s Brisbane-Abu Dhabi flights remain paused for now, although “we are planning to operate to 60 destinations by the end of September,” Etihad’s Vice President of Network Planning, Alex Featherstone, confirms to Executive Traveller on the sidelines of this month's CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit.

Virgin Australia’s Stateside counterpart Delta Air Lines will also remain on board as an alliance partner, although the closer Joint Venture deal between the two carriers is now shelved until Virgin Australia resumes flights to Los Angeles.

Read: Delta, Virgin Australia pause Joint Venture partnership

This would only be possible if Virgin Australia were to order a new type of aircraft, following the early exit of its flagship Boeing 777-300ER jets: the only planes in Virgin’s fleet capable of non-stop flying between Australia and the continental United States.

Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah has previously indicated that Singapore Airlines is likely to remain a partner as well.

“Singapore Airlines is very important to us, and they acknowledge that we’re important to them,” Scurrah said earlier this month.

Also read: Virgin Australia plots its return to New Zealand, USA

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.


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