Etihad Airways president and CEO James Hogan stated the carrier does plan to maintain its 10% stake in Virgin Australia “at the moment” however did not rule out increasing the share stating, “Once the Jet Airways deal is over we'll see what we can do moving forward working with Virgin" (The Australian, 06-Jun-2013). Mr Hogan added, “It's never been a race about investments, it's been how do we build a network that gives us the traffic flows to ensure that Etihad has a sustainable model”.
Etihad Airways to maintain 10% stake in Virgin Australia ‘at the moment’
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Virgin Australia realigns its airline partnership priorities on new long haul strategy: Part 1
There have recently been important shifts in Virgin Australia's partnership relations, as Air New Zealand withdraws its ownership and the roles of Singapore Airlines and Etihad evolve with HNA becoming a substantial shareholder. As a consequence, Virgin is restructuring its long haul network for the first time in over two years. Individual changes are not significant, but they help tie up loose ends in Virgin's strategy. Virgin and its US JV partner Delta have been static since United and Qantas-American Airlines greatly altered the Australia-US market profile, a route which constitutes most of Virgin's long haul network.
Virgin struggled to find a use for what was essentially leftover aircraft capacity that it allocated to Sydney-Abu Dhabi as part of a JV with Etihad. With a limited fleet, North America beckoning, and Etihad seemingly losing some lustre since a Virgin-Singapore Airlines partnership, Virgin is having to cut Sydney-Abu Dhabi to free up capacity to relaunch Melbourne-Los Angeles.
Virgin will still commit to its Etihad partnership by adding three weekly Perth-Abu Dhabi flights on the A330-200, which will finally be moved out of the domestic market and deployed long haul. Since the end of the West Australian mining boom, these well equipped aircraft are no longer needed on transcontinental domestic service. Virgin's fleet of five 777-300ERs now will exclusively be used on Los Angeles.
Australia-India air travel market grows rapidly but SE Asian hubs hinder nonstop services
The Australia-India market has experienced rapid growth over the last three years, prompting Australia to lobby for more direct services. Visitor arrivals from India are up 50% since mid-2013, and total passenger traffic between the two countries is up approximately 30%.
Air India launched services to Melbourne and Sydney in 2013 but the Australia-India market is still dominated by Southeast Asian flag carriers. Singapore Airlines has been able to maintain a leading 41% share of the market. Malaysia Airlines also still carries more Australia-India passengers than Air India.
Attracting more nonstop flights from Air India, or the possible launch of nonstop flights to India by Australian carriers, will not be easy despite growing demand. Southeast Asia’s network airlines have a competitive advantage as they serve several gateways in both Australia and India. Southeast Asia’s growing medium/long haul LCCs have also started to compete in the Australia-India market and are well positioned to take a large share of the anticipated growth.