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Virgin Australia, Etihad Airways in talks to boost ties

Virgin Australia says relationship with Etihad ‘very sound’ amid strategy review

Gulf News

Dubai

Virgin Australia and Etihad Airways are still in talks about enhancing their ties, even amid speculation that the Abu Dhabi-based carrier may sell its stakes in other airlines.

Rob Sharp, group executive of Virgin Australia Airlines, said the relationship with Etihad is “very sound”. His comments come as Etihad undergoes a strategy review of its equity stakes after reporting $1.52 billion in losses in 2017 and $1.95 billion in losses in 2016.

“We have a deep relationship with Etihad Airways. That alliance is ongoing. We actually [just] met with them and we were talking about things we can do to continue to enhance that relationship,” Sharp said last week on the sidelines of the 74th annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Sydney.

Asked whether Etihad will keep its stake in Virgin Australia, Sharp said he could not comment on the issue, adding that Etihad will have to “react to its environment.”

“For us, though, the demand for Australia over Abu Dhabi and back is very strong, and the relationship is very sound,” he said.

Under its former chief James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ growth strategy included buying stakes in other carriers across the world, but following his departure and following billions of dirhams worth of losses, that strategy has changed.

Etihad has since sold its minority stake in Europe’s Darwin Airline, and is continuing to assess its current operations, with its equity partners Alitalia and Airberlin having filed for administration. The airline is yet to announce the results of its strategy review, but its chief executive, Peter Baumgartner, told Gulf News in November that Etihad is not on the lookout for more airline stakes.

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