Etihad Boosts Indian Offering Following Jet Deal

United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier Etihad Airways has commenced a major expansion of its Indian operations following the approval of an historic 24 per cent investment in Jet Airways.  Central to the Etihad plan is the use of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, as a global hub connecting international passengers and freight with flights to and from India and the carrier continues to work with authorities to allow US-bound passengers to clear immigration and customs at Abu Dhabi.

The first stage of the Etihad strategy includes additional flights or the introduction of larger aircraft on existing routes to India.  Its links from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai and New Delhi have increased from 7 to 14 flights per week with immediate effect, while second daily rotations will be introduced to Kochi from June 2014, Bangalore and Chennai from July 2014 and Hyderabad from October 2014.

As well as more flights, Etihad is introducing larger aircraft in some markets.  On the Abu Dhabi-Mumbai and Abu Dhabi – New Delhi routes, evening flights with narrow-bodied Airbus A320s have been upgraded to wide-bodied Airbus A340 and A330 jets. On the Mumbai services, this includes introduction of First Class cabins on the evening A340 flights.  New Airbus A321 aircraft, seating 174 passengers, will be used on all Abu Dhabi-Chennai services, and between Abu Dhabi and Kochi from June 2014.

Subject to regulatory approvals in a range of countries, Etihad and Jet also plan to codeshare on each other’s flights between Abu Dhabi, India and other markets in the Middle East, North America and Europe.  The UAE carrier will also codeshare on new flights by Jet Airways’ between India and the US, via the Abu Dhabi hub, subject to regulatory approval.

 “India is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing air travel markets, and will play an increasingly important role in our growth,” said James Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Etihad Airways.  “Through our purchase of 24 per cent of Jet Airways – the first foreign investment permitted in an Indian airline – we have laid the foundations for major and exciting growth in air services between Abu Dhabi and India, and beyond throughout our global network.”

“Subject to receiving regulatory approvals, we will continue to expand our Abu Dhabi – India operations and work with our growing stable of partners to accommodate strong growth and deliver much greater choice for travel to and from India,” he added.

The changes are not confined to flight operations.  A key benefit of the Etihad equity alliance, like the more established global groupings, is the ability of member airlines to work together not only to increase revenues but to reduce costs.  In addition to Jet, Etihad has invested in airberlin (29 per cent), Air Seychelles (40 per cent), Virgin Australia (19.9 per cent) and Aer Lingus (3 per cent). Etihad is also awaiting regulatory approval to acquire 33.3 per cent of Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline in a move that will provide feeder traffic into its European terminuses and in January 2014 it will activate a 49 per cent investment in Air Serbia.

“Our equity alliance enables much deeper cooperation than can be achieved through a standard commercial partnership,” explained Hogan. “In addition to joint activities which increase revenue, the relationships we have with our equity partners enable us to reduce costs and increase efficiencies through activities such as resource sharing, knowledge transfer and joint procurement.”

Etihad began operations in 2003 but strong network and fleet growth has seen it already pass the ten million annual passenger milestone.  From its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport, it offers flights to 97 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas, with a fleet of 87 Airbus and Boeing aircraft; a further 220 aircraft are on firm order, including 71 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 25 Boeing 777-X, 62 Airbus A350s, and 10 Airbus A380s.

Etihad currently has a 1.9 per cent share of the international seat capacity from India (based on 2013 schedules) but its partnership with Jet Airways, India’s largest international carrier, will see this rise to a combined 15.4 per cent thanks to Jet’s extensive regional activities and wider medium- and long-haul network.  In the table below we highlight the top 20 international carriers in India.  In its own right, Etihad is ranked 17th in the analysis, a long way behind its Middle East hub rivals Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways.

SCHEDULED INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES FROM INDIA (non-stop departures; 2013)

Rank

Airline

Annual Departures

Annual Capacity

% Capacity Share

1

Jet Airways (9W)

18,130

3,731,737

13.5 %

2

Air India (AI)

16,820

3,477,829

12.6 %

3

Emirates Airline (EK)

9,661

2,600,524

9.4 %

4

Air India Express (IX)

6,608

1,200,428

4.4 %

5

Qatar Airways (QR)

4,954

1,051,908

3.8 %

6

IndiGo (6E)

5,041

907,380

3.3 %

7

Air Arabia (G9)

5,380

871,560

3.2 %

8

Singapore Airlines (SQ)

2,950

821,629

3.0 %

9

Thai Airways International (TG)

2,674

798,239

2.9 %

10

Oman Air (WY)

4,990

763,835

2.8 %

11

Lufthansa (LH)

2,339

745,722

2.7 %

12

SriLankan Airlines (UL)

4,395

736,156

2.7 %

13

British Airways (BA)

2,363

697,977

2.5 %

14

Saudia (SV)

2,608

694,939

2.5 %

15

Malaysia Airlines (MH)

3,001

584,843

2.1 %

16

SpiceJet (SG)

3,938

572,455

2.1 %

17

Etihad Airways (EY)

3,411

531,146

1.9 %

18

Cathay Pacific (CX)

1,825

488,481

1.8 %

19

AirAsia (AK)

2,451

441,180

1.6 %

20

Tigerair (TR)

2,106

379,080

1.4 %

TOTAL

133,723

27,566,658

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