x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Etihad follows in royal couple's footsteps with new destination

Etihad Airways has added the Republic of Seychelles to its international expansion plans.

The carrier will operate four flights a week from November to Seychelles, making the destination more accessible from the UAE. Courtesy of Emirates Airlines
The carrier will operate four flights a week from November to Seychelles, making the destination more accessible from the UAE. Courtesy of Emirates Airlines

Etihad Airways is launching flights to a holiday destination fit for royalty.

The Abu Dhabi airline announced plans to commence services to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean where Britain's royal newlyweds, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, recently spent their 10-day honeymoon at a £4,000 (Dh24,017)-a-night villa.

When it launches services, expected to be in November, the airline will join the Dubai carrier Emirates Airline in catering to European "sunbirds" seeking tropical vacations over the winter to the Seychelles archipelago as well as operating flights to the Maldives, another grouping of tropical islands in the Indian Ocean.

"We expect this will be a hugely popular destination, in particular for holidaymakers from the GCC and European markets," said James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad.

The Abu Dhabi airline will service the Seychelles with four flights a week using an Airbus A320 in business and economy cabins, while the Maldives service, also due to start in November, will be served with a daily flight.

In March, Emirates announced it was also increasing its focus on the Seychelles and Maldives, with two flights a day planned for November.

Last year, 176,088 tourists visited the Seychelles, according to data provided by the Dubai airline, including 9,929 tourists from the Middle East.

The recent honeymoon of Britain's royals, would generate "new interest" in the Seychelles as a destination of choice, Mr Hogan said.

The archipelago is home to 115 islands featuring white-sand beaches and topaz waters, which is largely unspoiled by mass tourism due to the Seychelles' remote location. The islands are some 1,500km east of mainland Africa and north-east of the island of Madagascar.

The Seychelles will be the 68th destination on Etihad's global network.

Launched in 2003, the Abu Dhabi airline is targeting the end of this year to reach its financial break-even point and recently formed a strategic partnership with Virgin Australia to team-up on long-haul services between Europe and Australasia.

Etihad's most recent new destinations include Bangalore, Alexandria, Baghdad, Colombo, Erbil, Nagoya and Seoul, according to the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation.

This year Etihad plans to take delivery of a number of wide-bodied passenger and freighter aircraft from Boeing and Airbus as it seeks to build up its international network.

igale@thenational.ae