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Briefs: Virgin may join an alliance; Oneworld sets Malaysian debut

In news of international airlines, Sir Richard Branson indicated Virgin Atlantic might soon join a global alliance; the Oneworld group sets a date for Malaysian Airlines to join; Singapore buys a piece of an Australian carrier; Lufthansa begins shuttle-type domestic services; and Qantas draws a fine from U.S. regulators.

• Sir Richard Branson said during a visit to India that his Virgin Atlantic Airways might finally end its longstanding policy of going it alone in the worldwide aviation market. Branson, in India for the opening of new Virgin service from London to Mumbai, told Bloomberg News in an interview that because so many of its competitors are now part of larger airline groups, “I think we have finally decided that to survive we need to have an alliance.”  Branson said later at a press conference that Virgin could announce its alliance plans within a few months. Oneworld is probably out, since that is the alliance of Virgin’s arch-rival British Airways. Virgin is partly owned by Singapore Airlines, which belongs to the Star Alliance.

• The Oneworld global alliance said that Malaysian Airlines will become a full member of the group effective February 1. The alliance announced plans to add the Malaysian carrier a year and a half ago. The principal members of Oneworld include American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Malaysia Airlines, based in Kuala Lumpur, serves some 60 cities in 30 nations. Of those, 14 destinations will be new to the Oneworld alliance’s route map.

• Competition in Australia is intensifying due to some new deals announced last week. Singapore Airlines is investing more than $100 million for a 10 percent stake in Virgin Australia, and that carrier in turn will acquire Tiger Australia, a low-cost carrier whose parent company is partly owned by Singapore; and regional airline Skywest. Tiger Australia competes for the price-sensitive market with Qantas-owned Jetstar.

• Lufthansa said its winter domestic schedules in Germany will feature shuttle-type service in three major markets. The carrier said it will offer hourly departures on weekdays for flights between Frankfurt-Hamburg, Frankfurt-Munich and Frankfurt-Berlin. The schedule will include twice-hourly service during some peak hours in the morning and evening, Lufthansa said.

• Qantas has been hit with a $100,000 fine by the U,.S. Department of Transportation for violating a new rule that requires airlines to advise consumers on its website’s first screen of fare quotes that extra fees for baggage may apply. DOT said its investigators looked at Qantas’ website shortly after the rule took effect and found no such advisory.

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