x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Etihad intends to start flights from Abu Dhabi to Brazil

Etihad Airways is planning to launch flights to Brazil, marking the airline's first destination in South America.

Etihad's flights to Sao Paulo next June will allow revellers to enjoy the the sights and sounds of Brazil, including the carnival. Christophe Simon / AFP
Etihad's flights to Sao Paulo next June will allow revellers to enjoy the the sights and sounds of Brazil, including the carnival. Christophe Simon / AFP

Etihad Airways is planning to launch flights to Brazil, marking the airline's first destination in South America.

Daily direct flights to Sao Paulo are to start next June, the carrier announced yesterday. This is the latest in a series of commercial links that have been forged between the UAE and Latin America.

"Business and tourism flows between the United Arab Emirates and Brazil have been growing," said James Hogan, the president and chief executive of Etihad Airways.

In March, Mubadala Development struck a US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn) investment deal with Brazil's EBX Group, a company with interests in oil and gas, gold and other sectors. Mubadala, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, took a 5.6 per cent stake in Centennial Asset Brazilian Equity Fund and other offshore holding companies owned by Eike Batista, the founder of EBX Group.

DP World, three years ago, signed a deal with Odebrecht to acquire a majority stake in Embraport, a $500 million port terminal under development next to Porto de Santos, which is Brazil's largest container terminal and located about 80km from Sao Paulo. DP World also operates a terminal in the port in Callao, which is about 15km from Lima, Peru.

Emirates Airline launched flights to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, at the beginning of this year. The carrier, based in Dubai, also operates flights to Sao Paulo.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing has said it is planning to open an office in South America, a growing feeder market of tourists to the UAE. Sao Paulo is one of the locations under consideration for the office.

"Brazil is the world's sixth-largest economy, having overtaken the UK in 2011," Etihad said. "It is the largest country in South America and has the biggest population, at almost 200 million. Its trade and tourism will be boosted by its hosting of both the Fifa World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016."

Brazil is the UAE's fourth-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade between the two countries valued at $2.85bn, Etihad said. It added that authorities hope to increase this to $10bn within five years.

"We are witnessing significant growth in the bilateral relations between Brazil and the UAE and we are certain that Etihad Airways flights will create new opportunities for government, trade, tourism and cultural exchanges," said João de Mendonça Lima Neto, Brazil's ambassador to the UAE.

Exports from Brazil to the UAE include sugar, soya beans, meat, aircraft, heavy oils, tractors and construction vehicles.

Oil rigs, aviation fuel, steel, aluminium goods and plastics are among exports from the UAE to Brazil.

"The fact that these services are a year away means the carrier has time to market the new connections to Sao Paulo," said Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.

"It also effectively pits Etihad directly against … Emirates, who also serve Sao Paulo, so customers will certainly benefit from better connections to and from the UAE to Brazil, although whether there will be any significant price decreases remains to be seen," Mr Ahmad said.

rbundhun@thenational.ae

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