Hainan Airlines, a codeshare partner with Etihad Airways, has moved its Arabian Gulf flight operations from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.
Hainan shifts Gulf base to Abu Dhabi
The Chinese airline will now operate its twice-weekly Beijing to Luanda, Angola service via Etihad's hub in the capital.
The new services are timed to allow Hainan passengers to connect from Beijing to Berlin and London Heathrow and from Cairo, the Maldives and Casablanca to Beijing on the return.
Etihad first signed the codeshare with Hainan in December last year and yesterday's announcement will expand the scope of their cooperation, said James Hogan, Etihad's president and chief executive.
"The partnership has developed in a positive, mutually beneficial way and relocating Hainan's Gulf operations to Abu Dhabi International Airport is a natural next step," he said.
Hainan is Etihad's second airline partner from the Asia-Pacific region to shift its Gulf operations to Abu Dhabi. Garuda Indonesia also consolidated its operations there from December 2.
"This is a huge vote of confidence for the operators of Abu Dhabi International Airport and its suppliers," said Mr Hogan." We expect there will be significant flow-on opportunities and benefits for the myriad stakeholders in the Emirate, including those in the tourism industry."
"Our move to Abu Dhabi International Airport will optimise our Beijing to Luanda operation," said Liu Lu, the president of Hainan. "A deeper partnership with Etihad Airways will also enable our customers to connect in Abu Dhabi to multiple destinations throughout the Middle East, Africa and Europe."
Currently, Hainan places its "HU" code on Etihad-operated flights between Abu Dhabi and the UAE airline's three gateway cities in China: Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai, and from Abu Dhabi to Khartoum International Airport in Sudan.
The decision will also act as a filip to Abu Dhabi's current drive to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the country since China's government added the UAE to its list of permitted holiday destinations in 2009.
Last year more than 210,000 Chinese tourists visited the UAE, according to the Dubai and Abu Dhabi tourism departments, an increase of more than 26 per cent on the previous year.
A survey in June by Visa indicated Chinese tourists spend an average of US$700 (Dh2,571) per transaction in the UAE, making them the highest-spending visitor group in the country.