STOCK Virgin Australia
A Virgin Australia Airlines plane takes off from Kingsford Smith International Airport in Sydney, Australia. Image Credit: Reuters

Qatar Airways is in talks to acquire about 20 per cent of Virgin Australia Airlines Pty, people familiar with the matter said, a deal that would grant the Gulf carrier access to a market where its expansion plans were scuppered by the government last year.

Negotiations between Qatar Airways and Virgin Australia's owner, Bain Capital, may still take some time to finalize or could break down, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. An investment by Qatar Airways would require Australian government approval.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Qatar Airways and Bain Capital declined to comment. Virgin Australia deferred questions about the matter to Bain Capital.

Bain last year postponed plans for an initial public offering of Virgin Australia, and earlier this year announced Jayne Hrdlicka will step down as chief executive officer once a replacement is found.

A request by Qatar Airways to operate more routes to Australia was rejected in 2023. The airline has complained that decision was unfair, pointing to its operations to repatriate Australian citizens during the pandemic.

read more

Regional rival Turkish Airlines made its Australian debut this year via Singapore. Emirates has also increased operations to the continent, highlighting demand for long-haul services from the Middle East.

The Australian Financial Review, which reported the talks earlier, said Qatar Airways' interest could be announced as early as next week.

Australia's air travel market is dominated by Qantas Airways Ltd. Virgin Australia crumbled weeks into the Covid pandemic in 2020 under a pile of debt, wiping out then-shareholders including Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Etihad Airways. Later that year, Bain Capital bought the collapsed carrier in a A$3.5 billion ($2.3 billion) rescue deal.

Doha-based Qatar Airways is the largest shareholder of British Airways owner IAG SA, and owns around 10 per cent of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Latam Airlines Group SA.