Etihad Airways has announced its intention to purchase from Air India five Boeing 777-200 LRs, the longest range passenger aircraft in operation to support its accelerated network growth plan.
The two carriers signed a letter of intent in Mumbai earlier this week paving the way for the deal.
The 777-200 LRs will be used on the airline’s new route between Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles which starts on June 1st, 2014.
Etihad Airways currently flies to New York, Chicago, Washington DC and Toronto in North America, and to São Paulo in Brazil, and has stated its ambition to add new services to both continents.
Subject to approvals, the aircraft will be delivered to Etihad Airways from the beginning of 2014 and each will be re-fitted in a three class cabin configuration consistent with similar aircraft in the Etihad Airways fleet.
It is expected the first aircraft will enter service in April 2014.
The purchase comes as Etihad Airways finalises details on a new fleet order which will meet its organic growth and expansion requirements to 2025 in line with its rolling network plan.
Etihad president James Hogan said: “The Boeing 777-200 LR is a fantastic addition, giving us extra reach immediately and complementing our long term fleet strategy.
“Our continued strong organic growth, boosted by the impact of our equity partners, has opened up new opportunities for additional destinations.
“We are looking forward to starting direct services to Los Angeles, as well as increasing our flying to South America. This is the aircraft to do that.”
The Boeing 777-200 LR, of which less than 60 were manufactured, has a design range of 17,370 km, allowing it to connect almost any city in the world from Etihad Airways’ hub at Abu Dhabi.
The five Air India 777-200LR aircraft, which Etihad Airways is purchasing are, on average, six years old, helping the airline to maintain its overall position of having one of the most modern fleets in the industry.
Etihad Airways’ current fleet will reach 87 aircraft by year end, with 14 new deliveries from aircraft manufacturers during 2013.
Its long term fleet strategy to the end of the decade is based on its order, announced at the Farnborough air show in 2008, for up to 205 Boeing and Airbus aircraft.
This mix of firm orders, options and purchase rights has given the airline great flexibility in its business development planning to 2020.
Hogan added: “This tactical addition to our fleet adds even further flexibility. We’ve been able to respond quickly to a positive opportunity to add to the fleet, allowing us to bring forward our launch plans for a number of new routes.”