Following on the back of new services to Brisbane and Sydney, Etihad Airways is continuing its Australian expansion by launching a non-stop daily service from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne from March 2009.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive officer, said: “Since the successful launch of our services to Sydney and Brisbane, we have been particularly eager to spread our wings and expand our Australian operations even further. I hope that our new Melbourne flights will also prove to be a winner for both commercial and leisure traveller alike.”
“Etihad looks forward to opening up further trade and holiday-maker traffic business in both the UAE and Australia by creating direct links between Abu Dhabi and Melbourne.”
The UAE is Australia’s second-largest commercial market in the Gulf region. During 2006-7, Australia’s exports to the UAE increased 45 per cent to reach Dhs 8.5bn, while imports from the UAE rose 162.3 per cent to Dhs 6bn of which Dhs 5.3bn was crude oil. In the same period, bilateral trade between the UAE and Australia exceeded Dhs 14.6bn.
The Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi estimates there are around nearly 15,000 Australian nationals and more than 300 Australian companies in the UAE. Around a third of all Middle East tourists to Australia are from the UAE.
The activities of Australian companies in the UAE include building and construction, financial and banking services, education and training services, sports and recreation, health services and oil field supplies.
Melbourne follows the introduction of Sydney and Brisbane route launches in 2007 by Etihad. Within its first year of Australian operations, the airline tripled flights to and from Australia and carried more than 100,000 passengers.
The airline announced recently that from October it will increase its Abu Dhabi to Sydney flights from seven to 11 per week.
Etihad Airways becomes the first international airline during the last two years to start flights into Melbourne.
His Excellency Jeremy Bruer, the Australian Ambassador to the UAE, said: “This announcement is great news for the UAE and Australia and will, I’m sure, be warmly welcomed by the business community and leisure travellers in both countries.
“Etihad’s flights to Sydney and Brisbane have proved incredibly popular and I have little doubt that the airline’s latest service between Abu Dhabi and Melbourne will prove equally successful. The airline should be congratulated for the significant contribution it has already made to strengthen ties between our two nations.”
Chris Woodruff, chief executive officer of Melbourne Airport, added: “Victoria has established itself as an attractive destination for business, trade and tourism. The new services represent the opportunities and growth potential that this vibrant state has to offer to world-class airlines such as Etihad Airways.”
The news follows the recent announcement by Etihad at the Farnborough International Airshow that the airline is to order 100 new Airbus and Boeing wide and narrow body aircraft at list prices of US$22 billion, for delivery between 2011 and 2020.
The airline remains on track to achieve its 2008 target of carrying six million passengers and increase to 50 the number of destinations on its growing global network by the end of the year.
In the next few months, the carrier will begin new services from Abu Dhabi to Kozhikode (Calicut) and Chennai (Madras) in India, Minsk in Belarus, Moscow in Russia and Almaty in Kazakhstan.
Etihad Airways will operate a three cabin Airbus A340-600 to Melbourne. It is configured to carry 286 passengers, with 12 in first class, 30 in business class and 244 in economy class.