Etihad fires first salvo after Jet deal, lists out expansion plan for India

Manisha Singhal   Mumbai     Last Updated: September 19, 2013  | 13:52 IST
Etihad Airways increases flights to India
The Etihad Airways headquarters in Abu Dhabi Photo: Reuters

Abu Dhabi headquartered airline Etihad on Thursday announced a massive increase in the number of flights between India and its Abu Dhabi hub giving the connectivity between India and the UAE a major boost.

Emirates Airline and Air India are the big carriers on India-UAE routes currently.

Etihad is awaiting regulatory approval
for picking up a 24 per cent stake in enlarged share capital of Naresh Goyal-promoted airline Jet Airways for $379 million that was announced in April this year.

The deal with Jet was announced soon after the two governments in India and Abu Dhabi signed a controversial pact to nearly treble the number of seats to 36,670 a week to be operated by airlines from both countries.

"Etihad will greatly increase options for travel to and from India, introducing more flights and wide-bodied jets by the end of this year, and further increases and new routes next year, subject to regulatory approval," the airline said in a statement early Thursday.

The airline said it will treble the number of seats it flies on its prime route between Abu Dhabi and major cities of Delhi and Mumbai beginning November.

The airline said this massive increase is being done keeping in mind "the growing importance of the Indian market, and delivering significant economic benefits to the economies of India and Abu Dhabi."

Etihad Airways currently flies to nine Indian destinations including Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Kochi, with a total of 59 flights per week.

Etihad said the Indian fliers from Abu Dhabi will be able to connect other destinations on its global network via Abu Dhabi.

"India is one of the world's fastest-growing destinations, and a key market in the growth strategy of Etihad Airways," said James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer.

Beginning December, Etihad seeks to deploy bigger aircraft type A340-600 on one of its daily flights from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi in a three-class configuration. Another wide body aircraft type, the A330-200, will be used on the Delhi-Abu Dhabi route with business and economy class.

It will also upgrade its aircraft on the Chennai route with more seats on offer on the A321 jet replacing the smaller A320 allowing 176 seats instead of 136 seats.

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