Etihad airways cleared to buy more of virgin Australia General July 20, 2012July 28, 20120 Abu Dhabi: Etihad Airways has welcomed the decision by the Australian Government to allow the airline to increase its equity stake in Virgin Australia Holdings to a maximum of 10 per cent. Etihad Airways currently has a 4.99 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, acquired earlier this year, and had applied to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to raise the level of its investment. The company said in a statement that purchase was made following the development of a highly successful multi-tiered partnership between the two airlines that includes code-sharing on flights, joint marketing initiatives and reciprocal earn-and-burn on their respective frequent flier programs. Together, Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia currently operate 24 flights per week between Australia and Abu Dhabi offering Australian travellers and visitors to Australia greater choice and access to a combined network of more than 285 global destinations. The strategic partnership has already delivered significant revenues to each airline. It is expected that the equity stake in Virgin Australia will lead to further revenue generating opportunities, the company stated. The first Etihad Airways flights from Sydney to Abu Dhabi took place in March 2007 and since then it has started flights from Brisbane and Melbourne, with plans for services from Perth in future. In total, nearly two million passengers have flown with Etihad Airways between Australia and its Abu Dhabi hub. Etihad Airways has three regional offices and a line maintenance facility in Australia, and now employs more than 300 Australian members of staff who are based in Australia, Abu Dhabi and at stations around the world. It is estimated that Etihad Airways’ passengers have spent more than AUD$ 1.5 billion locally on hotels, tours, restaurants, retail shopping and other tourist activities in Australia. The airline’s aircraft, office, marketing and selling costs have directly contributed more than AUD$ 540 million to Australia’s GDP. Etihad Airways has invested strongly in the local community, becoming a trusted sponsor to Australian sporting and cultural sectors, not least through its long-term commitment to Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. “Etihad Airways is very proud to have been, and continues to be, a good friend to Australia. At the same time, Australia has been a great success for Etihad Airways. “We look forward to building on this long and prosperous relationship,” the company said.