United Arab Emirates (UAE) operator is to expand its fleet with the introduction of its first Boeing 777-200LRs after revealing the launch of a new daily connection to Los Angeles from its Abu Dhabi International Airport hub from June 1, 2014. Although Etihad does already operate versions of the 777, it does not currently have any 777-200LRs - the variant with the longest-range - and there is strong speculation that it could be acquiring the aircraft from Air India, as the latter replaces the type with its 787 Dreamliners.
The new route, subject to normal regulatory approval, will be the only non-stop air service between Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles and will rival the operations of Emirates Airline on the route between its Dubai International Airport hub and the US west coast city. Emirates launched the route initially on a three times weekly basis in October 2008, increasing to a daily service from May 2009 and double daily from November 2010, but returned to a daily operation in August 2012. It will debut its Airbus A380s on the link from December this year.
The Californian city will be Etihad’s fourth US destination, joining Chicago, New York and Washington D.C, and will see the airline provide 28 return flights each week between the UAE and US. “We are delighted to add Los Angeles, a major US and global destination with a significant metropolitan population and growing economy, to the Etihad network in 2014,” said James Hogan, president and chief executive officer, Etihad Airways at a press conference in Los Angeles to launch the route.
The new service will increase Etihad’s operations in the US market by 33 per cent and cater for growing leisure and business traffic demands in Los Angeles, as well as the considerable catchment area of the city. The airline has carried nearly two million passengers between Abu Dhabi and its destinations in the US in the last seven years, with 2013 passenger volumes expected to increase by 30 per cent over passengers carried in 2012.
Los Angeles, one of the world’s most iconic, popular, and multicultural destinations with a metropolitan population area of more than 18 million people, is the second largest in the US. It is classified as a ‘global city’ with strengths in business, international trade, entertainment, culture, media, fashion, science, sports, technology, education, medicine and research.
“The expansion of the US network also will be of considerable benefit to the growing commercial and cultural ties between the US and UAE, with trade between the two countries set to increase beyond the current annual level of USD 22.5 billion,” said Hogan. According to a study commissioned by the US-UAE Business Council, the UAE is the single largest export market for American goods in the Middle East region and bilateral trade was worth USD 22.57 billion in 2012.
“The new service will also offer maximum connectivity, via Abu Dhabi, with 25 Etihad Airways destinations across the Middle East region and Indian Subcontinent, 12 of which are in India, catering for the demand from Los Angeles’ diverse and multicultural population,” added the experienced Australian airline executive.
Etihad confirms the new route will be supported by an expansion of its existing codeshare agreement it has with American Airlines and which has been operational since September 2009. American places its ‘AA’ code on all Etihad flights between the US and UAE and the Gulf carrier confirms this will also take place on the new Los Angeles service. This partnership enables Etihad to strengthen further the reach and depth of its activities in the US with its ‘EY’ code already appearing on American flights through its current gateways of Chicago, New York and Washington DC to more than 70 US cities.
Although the flight originally appeared in the GDS as being operated using a 777-300ER, Etihad has confirmed it will use a 237-seat 777-200LR, configured in a three-cabin arrangement and the initial information has now been updated. The UAE carrier says the aircraft will be arranged with 8 Diamond First Class suites, 40 Pearl Business Class flatbed seats, and 189 Coral Economy Class seats.