Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has outlined a range of major changes to its Australian operations, including new aircraft, new routes, additional flights and new airport facilities.
The airline’s plans for Australia include the launch of the Airbus A380 on routes from Sydney and Melbourne to Abu Dhabi and the construction of premium lounges at Sydney and Melbourne Airports from 2014.
Additional flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to Abu Dhabi will also be launched, along with the commencement of non-stop flights between Perth and Abu Dhabi.
Etihad Airways – considered the World’s Leading Airline by the World Travel Awards - is also increasing its equity in Virgin Australia, following recent approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board to increase from a ten per cent shareholding to 19.9 per cent.
“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,” explained Etihad chief executive James Hogan.
““We have a significant presence in Australia, with 28 weekly departures, annual expenditure of over $100 million, direct employment of 106 staff and engagement of 415 local contractors.
“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 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.
Etihad Airways is also awaiting regulatory approval for investment in a sixth airline, India’s Jet Airways, which gives the equity alliance a combined total of more than 420 destinations, 500 aircraft and more than 96 million passengers each year.