Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has said it has raised its equity stake in Virgin Australia to 19.9 per cent and that the two companies continue to deepen their strategic partnership.
This follows a series of on-market purchases of Virgin Australia shares over recent weeks. The Abu Dhabi-based airline now holds more than 515 million shares in its equity partner airline.
At 19.9 per cent, Etihad Airways has reached the threshold approved by Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board in June 2013.
"We are delighted to have reached this milestone. It reflects our strong support for the business strategy and management team of Virgin Australia and our enduring commitment to the Australian market.
"It also reflects the close working relationship between our two airlines and we look forward to strengthening its commercial foundations," James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said.
Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia signed a 10-year strategic partnership agreement in August 2010 that includes code-sharing on flights, joint sales and marketing activities, and reciprocal earn-and-burn on their respective frequent flyer programmes.
"The strategic partnership continues to deliver significant revenue streams and other benefits to each airline.
"Increasing our equity in Virgin Australia will further enrich the commercial benefits which the partnership delivers for both airlines as well as increasing the benefits to Australian travellers and visitors to Australia," Hogan said.
Those benefits include seamless connectivity to more than 40 codeshare destinations in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Thailand and loyalty programme privileges such as priority baggage handling, priority boarding and airport lounge access for top tier programme members.
Combined, Etihad Airways (25) and Virgin Australia (3) operate 28 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Australia and passengers have access to a combined global network of more than 280 destinations.
Etihad Airways also holds equity investments in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia and Aer Lingus and will acquire 49 per cent of Air Serbia from January 2014, and, subject to regulatory approval, will acquire 24 per cent of India's Jet Airways. It also has codeshare partnerships with 47 airlines worldwide.