x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Etihad launches maiden flight to Perth

Etihad Airways will launch today its first trip to Perth in Australia, as analysts say it is looking for a 75 per cent growth in the country over the next three years.

Etihad Airways will today launch its first service to Perth, part of an ambitious growth plan in Australia that one analyst says could bring it growth of 75 per cent in the country over three years.

And in a further sign of its growing interest in the Australian market, Etihad says it will operate its daily flights to Brisbane directly, instead of stopping in Singapore. The route will be operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner — featuring Etihad’s new premium class option.

“With the up-gauges from A340s to 777s, new Perth service and soon deployment of A380s, Etihad is looking at growth over three years of approximately 75 per cent in Australia,” said Will Horton, a senior analyst Sydney-based Centre for Aviation (Capa). “Planned growth had been consistent across cabins, but with the 787 and A380, there will be a slight increase in premium seat share.”

In 2013, Etihad was the 12th largest international carrier in Australia with a 2.1 per cent of passengers, compared to the 9.3 per cent of Emirates, the second-largest after Qantas. But Mr Horton reckons that “favourable market conditions could see Etihad become the 10th-largest carrier in the near future”.

In addition to Perth, Etihad also flies daily to Melbourne and Sydney. It has a First and Business Class Lounge at Sydney International Airport and will open another at Melbourne International Airport in the first half of 2015.

UAE carriers have deep-rooted ties with Australian airlines. Etihad owns a 21.2 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, the second-biggest airline in the country, and Emirates partnered with Qantas, its biggest airline, a year ago.

Emirates operates three daily flights between Perth and Dubai.

The Emirates-Qantas tie-up took a sizeable chunk of business away from Singapore. The development also meant an end to the Qantas partnership with British Airways, a service which had been affectionately known as the Kangaroo route from Australia to London via Singapore.

“Gulf hubs can offer more one-stop options between Australia and Europe than traditional Asian hubs can,” said Mr Horton.

“Singapore and Hong Kong may be cheaper than Australia, but they are becoming expensive cities. Gulf carriers are full service but without a legacy history that adds cost,” he added.

Singapore has not taken the increasing encroachment of deep-pocketed Arabian Gulf airlines lying down. The city-state’s fair trade watchdog recently started investigating Etihad’s purchase of a 24 per cent stake in India’s Jet Airways to see if it would affect competition with Singapore Airlines, as both Etihad and Jet offer direct flights to Singapore.

Also today, Etihad is launching a service to Rome. Etihad has been in the news in Italy, as it is awaiting regulatory approval to purchase a 49 per cent stake in the country’s financially ailing flagship carrier Alitalia.

According to a sampling of rates offered on Etihad’s website yesterday, the cheapest return fare for Rome was Dh3,425, taxes included, and for Perth was Dh6,435, taxes included.

selgazzar@thenational.ae

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