Etihad Airways is set to expand further in the Indian market if it gets government approval, according to a senior official from the Abu Dhabi-based airline. Geert Boven, Etihad’s executive vice president sales and services, said that Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad were all ‘in the airline’s sights’ as the carrier prepares to launch flights on 30 May to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and 2 June to Kochi (Cochin).
Etihad held talks with the Indian authorities over new air rights in March, which resulted in the new Kerala routes and will enable Etihad to offer a total of 21 flights per week from Abu Dhabi to India.
Following the conclusion of the talks the airline has been working towards adding more Indian destinations to its expanding flight network which target the major cities in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Mr Boven said:
‘With a population of one billion people and the world’s second fastest growing economy, demand for Etihad’s flights to India is huge. There are also more than one million Indian citizens living in the UAE who are eager to enjoy greater air links. I do hope that the two countries’ governments can reach agreement for even more non-stop flights to help satisfy consumer demand.’
The UAE is India’s most dominant trading partner in the entire WANA (West Asia North Africa) region, and represents 70 per cent of India’s export to GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) countries. Currently there are 3,300 Indian companies operating in the UAE.
Bilateral trade between the two countries also continues to grow year-on-year and now stands at more than AED 48 billion.
Mr Boven added: ‘Air travel between India and the UAE will continue to grow as both countries enhance their positions as major global destinations for business and leisure travellers. As this demand increases Etihad will look to boost its services and become the leading airline in this exciting and crucial sector.’
The new three flights-per-week service to Thiruvananthapuram and four flights-per-week service to Kochi will join Etihad’s established flights to Mumbai and New Delhi, with flights to the Indian capital going daily from 31 May.
Etihad is already experiencing high demand on the Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi routes, with aircraft seat sales averaging 80 per cent full planes. The new flights will offer 3,360 seats per week between the UAE and Kerala which will increase to 6,720 when the two Kerala routes become daily from October 2007.
Etihad will fly from Abu Dhabi to Kochi every Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Flight EY280 departs from Abu Dhabi at 10.25pm and arrives at 3.55am. Flight EY281 departs from Kochi every Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 5.15am, arriving in Abu Dhabi at 7.35am.
Etihad will fly from Abu Dhabi to Thiruvananthapuram every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Flight EY272 departs from Abu Dhabi at 11.05pm and arrives at 4.45am. Flight EY273 departs from Thiruvananthapuram every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5.50am arriving in Abu Dhabi at 8.15am.
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