Etihad Flight EY131 touched down at Washington's Dulles International Airportyesterday marking the Abu Dhabi carrier's latest stage of growth.
The much-trumpeted flight marked the start of yet another milestone in ambitious expansion plans for the UAE carrier as it began non-stop daily 15-hour Airbus A340-500 flights between Abu Dhabi and Washington, creating the first direct air link between the two capitals.
Regular new routes to Amsterdam and São Paolo are also due to start over the next couple of months as the airline seeks to further expand its reach.
Etihad Airways has also had preliminary talks with Glasgow and Edinburgh airports about opening up direct routes from Abu Dhabi to Scotland as part of ambitious plans that include growing Abu Dhabi International Airport from its current 12.5 million annual capacity to 30 million over the next four years. Etihad's president and chief executive James Hogan said the airline had committed 3,360 seats per week to the new Washington route, which were selling well to business passengers.
"Government and corporate customers in both markets have given us strong indication that the Abu Dhabi - Washington route can support a daily service from day one. Already our forward bookings on the route are very encouraging in both directions."
A US$6.8 million (Dh24.9m) Etihad premium lounge is also set to open this week in Terminal A at Dulles airport as part of launch functions, attended by the UAE ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba, the US ambassador to the UAE Michael Corbin and the president of the US-UAE Business Council Danny Sebright.
Washington is the fourth North American destination for Etihad after New York, Chicago and Toronto as the airline seeks to capitalise on the lucrative transatlantic passenger routes.
Etihad said it had carried a total of almost two million passengers between Abu Dhabi and North America, achieving 12.6 per cent growth in passenger numbers last year.