x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Etihad announces six new routes for first half of 2015

Edinburgh and Madrid among the new routes which will bring the total to 107.

Etihad will fly to Edinburgh from next year. Lionel Bonaventure / AFP
Etihad will fly to Edinburgh from next year. Lionel Bonaventure / AFP

Etihad Airways will add six new destinations in Europe, Asia, and Africa during first half of 2015, taking its total number of routes to 107.

Etihad said it would launch daily flights to Kolkata in India, Entebbe in Uganda, Edinburgh in Scotland, and Madrid in Spain.

The Abu-Dhabi carrier will also fly four times a week to Hong Kong and three times a week to Algiers.

Hong Kong will be the fourth destination in China, after Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai. It will also be the seventh destination in north-east Asia.

Abu Dhabi is also marketing itself as a destination for “corporate tourism” from China.In April, Nu Skin China invited 14,500 of its sales and marketing force to the UAE. The Chinese delegation booked 40,000 hotel rooms and attended 94 dinner cruises, according to the trip organisers.

China’s outbound tourism market is growing at a rate of 9 per cent annually, with overall tourism expenditure predicted to grow to US$1.8 trillion by 2030 from $260 billion in 2012, according to a report produced by Boston Consulting Group and TripAdvisor. The UAE’s tourist boards have been working to capture a share of this burgeoning market.

“The [routes] expansion will create new opportunities to enhance our codeshare agreements and align operations with key airline partners, such as Virgin Australia, Jet Airways, Air Seychelles, Air Europa and Kenya Airways,” said James Hogan, the president and chief executive of Etihad Airways.

“Between Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong, for instance, our four weekly flights will combine with Air Seychelles’ three weekly flights to provide a daily frequency.”

Etihad’s growth strategy has relied heavily on expanding its route network through “equity alliances”, in which it invests in carriers that help it to expand its global reach in strategically important regions. Last year Etihad grew its equity alliance to seven, comprising Air Seychelles, Air Berlin, Virgin Australia, Air Serbia, Ireland’s Aer Lingus, India’s Jet Airways and Etihad Regional – formerly known as Darwin Airline.

The latest addition to this growing family of equity alliances could be Alitalia, the loss-making Italian flagship carrier. Etihad is in the final stages of finalising documents and getting regulatory and shareholders’ approval to acquire a 49 per cent stake in the Italian carrier.

Part of Etihad’s expansion will be to increase its “network depth” in important markets in the Middle East, the US, and the Indian subcontinent regions. Etihad will also add nine aircraft to its fleet in the first half of next year that will include: three Airbus A380s, three Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and three Airbus A320s.

“Etihad’s expansion continues to exploit the multiple opportunities for which Gulf hub carriers are perfectly positioned,” said John Strickland, the director of London-based JLS Consulting.

“It is also making use of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s efficiency to open up new markets and add frequencies on existing routes.”

Etihad’s current fleet comprises 102 planes. It also has 210 additional planes on firm order, plus options for another 81 planes.

Selgazzar@thenational.ae

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