Virgin eyes UK tie-in

Virgin Blue's plans for international expansion could involve a tie-up with British sibling Virgin Atlantic. Sir Richard Branson has revealed that this is one option that's being considered in his current discussions with Australian partner Patrick Corp's Chris Corrigan.

New Zealand and Bali services are very likely to be operated by Virgin Blue, but the option of the airline starting flights to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo is also being considered. In addition, it is likely that Virgin Atlantic will feed passengers into Virgin Blue's Australian domestic network from those cities.

A report in Hong Kong yesterday speculated that a Hong Kong-Sydney service may be launched within a year.

Sir Richard also revealed yesterday that Virgin Blue is considering the launch of a separate regional airline to service remote parts of Australia. It could be in operation by 2003 and would concentrate on small towns with fewer than 50,000 people.