Etihad Airways plans to ramp up its seats and flights to India in the coming months, including tripling the capacity on its routes between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai and New Delhi, the airline said yesterday.
The announcement comes after a petition was filed in India’s supreme court this week questioning the links between the recent Abu Dhabi-India air service bilateral agreement, which allows increased capacity between the destinations, and Etihad’s plan to buy a stake in Jet Airways as part of a US$600 million deal.
Its planned increase in seats and flights would be subject to regulatory approval, Etihad said.
The additional capacity would benefit both Abu Dhabi’s and India’s economies, it said.
“Following the recent signing of a new air services agreement between India and the UAE, we now have the opportunity to add significant capacity between the two countries, not only meeting existing demand for trade and tourist travel but also ensuring that we can meet the continued strong growth which is expected between our two countries,” said James Hogan, the president and chief executive of Etihad. “The big winners will be our passengers and freight customers and the economies of India and Abu Dhabi.”
By the end of this year, Etihad wants to increase its flights between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai and Abu Dhabi and New Delhi from daily to double-daily.
It also wants to use wide-bodied Airbus aircraft for some of the flights. Etihad also intends to start using new Airbus A321s, which seat 174 passengers, for its Chennai flights to replace its 136-seat Airbus A320 flights.
“Subject to regulatory approval, Etihad also intends to codeshare on a wide range of flights operated within India by Jet Airways,” Etihad added.
Etihad at the beginning of this month extended the deadline for regulatory approvals on the Jet Airways deal to the end of the month. The agreement was first announced in April and it was cleared by India’s foreign investment promotion board in July, but the stake purchase still has to be approved by the cabinet committee on economic affairs.
Mr Hogan added that India was “one of the world’s fastest-growing destinations, and a key market in the growth strategy of Etihad Airways”.
In another development, Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines said yesterday that they have signed an initial agreement to establish a full-service airline in India and are jointly seeking approval from the Indian government for it.
Tata Sons, which controls India’s diversified Tata Group, will own a 51 per cent stake in the new venture, while Singapore Airlines will have the rest, according to a joint news release.
“The Indian aviation industry is projected to experience future high growth rates,” Singapore Airlines said in a statement. “The recent Indian government decision to allow foreign airlines to invest up to 49 per cent in Indian carriers provides an opportunity for SIA to participate directly in one of the fastest-growing and largest aviation markets globally.”
Tata Sons had earlier signed a separate agreement with AirAsia to set up a low-cost airline in India.