Etihad Airways Boosts Chengdu Schedule

United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier, Etihad Airways, has announced it will increase the frequency of its Abu Dhabi – Chengdu service from five-flights-a-week to a daily schedule from March 30, 2014.

With a catchment population of 28 million people, Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation and communication hubs in western China and deemed among the top 10 cities for investment out of 280 across the country.  As one of the biggest markets in China for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Chengdu has emerged as a leading economic, transportation and communication centre for the Asian country, with nearly half of the world’s Fortune 500 companies having operations in the city.

Etihad Airways launched its Chengdu service in December 2011, offering the first and only direct airline connection between the UAE and China’s Sichuan province, home to a population of over 80 million. It is the third city to be served by Etihad Airways in China, with daily flights also operated to the capital, Beijing, and the country’s largest city by population, Shanghai.

According to data from the airline, passenger volumes on the Chengdu route increased by 25 per cent last year compared to 2012 levels, while cargo and mail volumes were 19 per cent higher. The flights are operated using a two-class Airbus A330-200 aircraft with 22 Pearl Business class and 240 Coral Economy class seats.

“With consistent double-digit growth in passenger and cargo volumes, Chengdu represents a great opportunity. Operating a daily service will provide our guests with even more convenient service to Abu Dhabi as well as key markets in the GCC, Middle East, North Africa and Europe. In addition, our expanded service will further stimulate economic growth between China and the UAE,” said James Hogan, president and chief executive officer, Etihad Airways.

Alongside demand from its home market, the UAE carrier had provided key connectivity to the developing Chinese destination from points onward from Abu Dhabi, especially Europe, where despite an annual O&D demand of over 110,000 passengers, only KLM had provided non-stop links with a service to Chengdu from its Amsterdam Schiphol hub.

Since Routes Asia was hosted by the city’s Shuangliu International Airport in 2012, connectivity has improved and British Airways now has a direct link to London, which will be switched to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner this year; Air China has a service to Frankfurt, while Qatar Airways offers connections to its global network via its Doha hub.  United will also introduce the first non-stop link between Chengdu and the USA when it inaugurate a link from San Francisco in June this year.

In the analysis below we highlight the rapid growth in capacity between Chengdu and markets outside of Asia and Australasia, based on seat departures from the city’s Shuangliu International Airport gateway.