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Virgin targets growing market with more links

BRITISH entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways will open more routes linking China as it further explores the potential of the growing market.

"We plan to open direct flights from Beijing to London in two years and from Shanghai to Australia in 18 months," said Branson at a news conference yesterday in Shanghai to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the airline's entry into the city.

Virgin is also talking with several Chinese airlines about flying domestic routes, but Branson said the discussions are still in the early stage and no timetable has been worked out yet.

He said Virgin is looking forward to operating domestic flights in conjunction with Chinese airlines but it's still too early to reveal details.

China's aviation regulator does not allow overseas airlines from flying domestic routes to protect the interests of domestic carriers.

Virgin launched direct flights between Shanghai and London in 1999 and is the only carrier that flies daily on the route.

From 2005 to last year, the airline saw its revenue on the route jump more than 30 percent annually.


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