Virgin Australia is boosting its international network and frequent flyer program through a codeshare agreement and frequent flyer partnership with Alitalia.
Initially, Virgin will place its VA airline code on the Italian flag carrier’s flights from Abu Dhabi to Rome and Milan (Malpensa), which are operated by Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft.
Frequent flyer benefits would be announced at a later date, Virgin said on Monday.
Virgin Australia chief commercial officer Judith Crompton said the codeshare would offer its passengers more choice for travel to Italy.
“We will continue to work closely with other international carriers to give our customers access to more destinations, more flights and more convenient schedules, as well as increased benefits for Velocity members,” Crompton said in a statement.
“We are very excited to partner with Alitalia and provide more choice to our customers travelling to Italy.
“Members of our Velocity Frequent Flyer program and Alitalia’s MilleMiglia program will soon benefit from the partnership.”
Virgin currently codeshares on Etihad Airways’ services from Australia to to Rome and Milan via Abu Dhabi, as well as Singapore Airlines’ services to Milan Rome through Singapore.
The Australian carrier also offers three flights a week between Sydney and Abu Dhabi with Boeing 777-300ERs. However, those flights are currently suspended while Virgin’s 777 fleet undergo a cabin upgrade with new business class seats and a refreshed premium economy cabin that is due to be completed by the end of July.
Etihad became a 49 per cent owner of Alitalia after completing a 1.76 billion euro deal in August 2014 that also included a 560 million euro investment in the loss-making Italian airline.
Alitalia is a member of the Skyteam alliance and is also one of seven airlines that belong to “Etihad Airways Partners”, which brings together Etihad plus five other airlines in which Etihad holds equity stakes in – airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Jet Airways and Swiss-based Darwin Airline (which operates as Etihad Regional).
It recently ended a frequent flyer arrangement with Qantas.
Etihad is also a 25.1 per cent shareholder in Virgin.