Virgin Australia chairman Neil Chatfield to step down

SYDNEY (AFP) - Virgin Australia chairman Neil Chatfield said on Tuesday he would leave after seven years spent guiding the airline through a turbulent time in the challenging domestic market.

Chatfield, who joined the board of Australia's second largest carrier in May 2006 and became the firm's chairman in 2007, said he believed it was the right time to step down.

"I believe the board, CEO and executive team are in a strong position to successfully guide the company into the future," he said in a statement.

Virgin has been engaged in a bruising war with rival Australian carrier Qantas over the domestic aviation market.

The battle saw both Virgin and Qantas record annual net losses in August of A$355.6 million (S$376 million) and A$2.84 billion respectively.

Virgin - which is majority owned by Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Etihad - took full control of budget carrier Tigerair Australia earlier in October when it paid Aus$1 for the remaining 40 percent it did not already own.

Chatfield said he had would stay in the job until a replacement is found.