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Wed, Sep 01, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Virgin Blue mulling Macau-based airline, report says

AFP , HONG KONG

Australian no-frills airline Virgin Blue is in talks to launch a new China-focused airline from Macau, a press report said yesterday.

A South China Morning Post report said the new airline will focus on tapping the emerging China air travel market and will be based at Macau International Airport, flying in and out of cities on the mainland. Recently Southeast Asian carrier AirAsia started flights between Macau and Bangkok.

Virgin Blue spokesman David Huttner confirmed the option was being examined but declined to discuss details of the proposal, saying it was one of many ideas that were being considered by the airline's business development unit.

"Virgin Blue is looking at a wide range of options, including options in Asia," he said.

The Post said Virgin Blue's plans will hinge on Air Macau's willingness to waive its 25-year concession on airline operations based in Macau.

But the two sides have been in negotiations on commercial terms for the waiver, along with Air Macau majority shareholder China National Aviation Corp for several months, the report said.

Virgin Blue is 45 percent-owned by Australia-listed transport and logistics group Patrick Corp and around 26 percent-owned by the British entrepreneur Richard Branson.

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