V Australia
V Australia arrived to Abu Dhabi International Airport

Australia-based Virgin Blue Group of Airlines launched its inaugural V Australia flight to Abu Dhabi, becoming the first Australian carrier to operate to the Middle East in 20 years.

Arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport at 11.40pm GST last night, the Sydney-Abu Dhabi service included Virgin Blue Group CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti and Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan, along with the Australian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Mr Doug Trappett, and Virgin Blue Group’s new ambassador and one of the world’s most successful swimmers, Ian Thorpe, who has come to Abu Dhabi to continue training for the 2012 Olympic trials.

The V Australia and Etihad delegations were welcomed by Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) CEO, James E. Bennett and the Senior Vice President of Airports Operations at ADAC Ahmad Al Haddabi, along with senior representatives from the airport and the home carrier.

The new V Australia Abu Dhabi service is a key part of the partnership between Virgin Blue Group of Airlines and Etihad Airways which will see the airlines offer a total of 27 weekly services between Abu Dhabi and Australia – including double-daily services between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, daily Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights and six frequencies per week between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane.

Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said: “V Australia is the first Australian airline ever to serve the United Arab Emirates. That is no small matter, and is certainly a reflection of the growing strength and relevance of the Australia-UAE relationship.

“In partnering with Virgin Blue, Etihad is supporting the Government of Abu Dhabi’s vision for the emirate by generating stronger inbound business and leisure traffic flows.

“Equally, the increased capacity into Australia will help us in achieving greater commercial scale, driving higher loads and yields on the African, European and Middle Eastern side of our network.”

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) James E. Bennett stated: “ADAC is pleased to welcome V Australia to its airlines’ portfolio as the first new addition for 2011 at Abu Dhabi International Airport. V Australia is recognised for its high quality service, in line with the levels of service we promise our travellers at Abu Dhabi International Airport.”

V Australia will operate three Sydney-Abu Dhabi services per week from February 2011 and three Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services per week by February 2012, using its new fleet of three-class economically and environmentally efficient Boeing 777-300ERs. VA29 will fly from Sydney to Abu Dhabi on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing at 4.05pm and VA30 will fly from Abu Dhabi to Sydney on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, departing at 10.45am.

Virgin Blue Group’s partnership with Etihad Airways delivers a combined global network of more than 150 destinations worldwide. This partnership is a key part of Virgin Blue Group’s plans to build an international network of airline partners that can provide global coverage along with frequent flyer earn and redemption capabilities to benefit guests.