Richard Branson's Virgin Blue Airlines has
won approval to fly to New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu, although it has
not decided on its trans-Tasman capacity yet.
Brisbane-based Virgin Blue said today it received clearance from the
International Air Services Commission to operate unlimited services to
Virgin Blue spokeswoman Amanda Bolger
told NZPA the airline had not narrowed down details yet.
"Today's decision to grant
permission is another step in quite a lengthy process, so it's not a
huge revelation where we can announce we'll fly from Auckland or
Wellington at this date.
"But it is certainly a step
forward in this process," she said.
The discount flier is jockeying for
capacity across the Tasman and criticised the proposed deal between Air
New Zealand and Qantas Airways as anti-competitive.
"We're going to go to New Zealand
regardless of what that decision is, it just will depend on the capacity
which we can provide competition," Ms Bolger said.
"Obviously if the (competition
authorities') decision goes against us, we won't be able to offer the
competitive environment that we can in Australia."
Virgin Blue did not specify the
potential capacity across the Tasman, although it said it can offer 1260
seats a week to Fiji and 720 seats a week to Vanuatu.
The company plans to launch
international flights by the end of the year.
Rival Qantas is trying to win approval
from anti-competition regulators in Australia and New Zealand for a plan
to buy a 22.5 percent stake in Air NZ.
The two airlines have made concessions
to their proposed alliance, initially blocked by both regulators as
Air NZ shares closed up 1c at 52 cents,
while Qantas shares fell 2c to $A3.32 ($NZ3.74).