Virgin Australia Holdings Limited (ASX: VAH) (Virgin Australia Group) today welcomed the draft decision of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to authorise Virgin Australia’s proposed strategic alliance with HNA Aviation, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express. This decision follows the ACCC’s decision to grant interim authorisation for the alliance in March 2017.

The proposed alliance will enable Virgin Australia to introduce new direct services between Australia and Hong Kong as well as Australia and China. Subject to all necessary approvals, the airlines will also codeshare on each other’s flights between Australia and Hong Kong, between Australia and mainland China and on each others’ domestic networks. The airlines also plan to introduce a reciprocal partnership between Velocity Frequent Flyer and Fortune Wings Club to offer guests more opportunities to earn points and access airline lounges.

As part of the first stage of the alliance, Virgin Australia will introduce flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong from 5 July 2017.

Virgin Australia Group CEO John Borghetti said: “This new alliance will provide significantly more competition and choice for travellers. When the alliance is in place, guests will enjoy an expanded network of destinations across Australia, mainland China and Hong Kong.

“The alliance will also enable Virgin Australia to accelerate its access to the Chinese travel market and work with HNA in driving inbound visitors to Australia, which will benefit our tourism industry and broader economy.

“We are particularly looking forward to implementing the first phase of the alliance and bringing Virgin Australia’s flights and outstanding customer service to Hong Kong with the launch of our Melbourne – Hong Kong services in July,” Mr Borghetti added.

The ACCC is expected to make its final ruling on the proposed alliance by July 2017 following public comments on the proposal.