Etihad Airways is set to launch new Perth-Abu Dhabi flights and increase capacity to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in a significant expansion for the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates.
The move is positive for hotels across Australia with the increase to open up more inbound seats, particularly from emerging markets that Etihad operates services to including India.
Speaking in Sydney at the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, said Australia was a key and long-term market for the airline and one for which there were exciting growth plans.
Hogan said the airline’s future steps for Australia included: an upgrade to Airbus A380 aircraft from Sydney and Melbourne to Abu Dhabi; construction of premium lounges at Sydney and Melbourne Airports from 2014; additional flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to Abu Dhabi; and the commencement of nonstop flights between Perth and Abu Dhabi.
He also reaffirmed that Etihad Airways was already moving to increase its equity in Virgin Australia, following recent approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board to increase from a 10% shareholding to 19.9%.
“Virgin Australia is a key member of our ever-expanding airline equity alliance, and Etihad Airways is an active and long-term investor in Virgin,” Hogan said.
“We have a significant presence in Australia, with 28 weekly departures, annual expenditure of over AUD$100 million, direct employment of 106 staff and engagement of 415 local contractors,” he said.
“The Virgin Australia partnership enables us to connect with 45 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia, while we reciprocate by providing connections via our Abu Dhabi hub to a wide range of destinations in Europe, UK, Ireland and Africa.”
Hogan also highlighted the contribution of codeshare partners such as Air France, KLM, Alitalia and Air Serbia to strengthening Etihad Airways’ position between Australia and Europe.
“Together with our partners, we have a continuous wave of flights coming down from Europe over our global hub in Abu Dhabi with connections to a significant network of destinations,” he said.
Hogan said the Etihad Airways equity alliance – an alternative to legacy airline alliances – now had five members, following a deal last week to invest in Serbia’s national airline.