Yesterday, Australia-based Virgin Blue Group of Airlines launched its inaugural V Australia flight to Abu Dhabi, to become the first Australian carrier to operate to the Middle East in 20 years, as part of the partnership between Virgin Blue Group of Airlines and Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. From February 2011, 27 weekly services will operate between Abu Dhabi and Australia, including twice-daily services between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, daily Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights and six flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane.
Onboard the inaugural flight were Virgin Blue Group CEO and managing director John Borghetti and Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan, as well as with the Australian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Doug Trappett, and Virgin Blue Group's new ambassador and one of the world's most successful swimmers, Ian Thorpe, in Abu Dhabi to continue training for the 2012 Olympic trials.
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."
This year, the V Australia Abu Dhabi service will operate three times per week from Sydney; by February 2012, Brisbane-Abu Dhabi service will operate three times a week, aboard its new fleet of three-class Boeing 777-300ERs. VA29 will fly from Sydney to Abu Dhabi on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing at 4:05 p.m., and VA30 will fly from Abu Dhabi to Sydney on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, departing at 10:45 a.m