European regional carrier Etihad Regional has launched a twice-weekly service linking Geneva in Switzerland, and Toulouse in southwestern France, its first year-round route to France from its Swiss base. The inaugural service, operated using a 50-seat Saab 2000 touched down at Toulouse’s Blagnac Airport at 4:40pm on April 17, 2014.
France is a key market for the carrier and it already operates to Biarritz and Calvi during the summer season and will commence year-round operations to Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille between May and June this summer. Also from May, Etihad Regional plans to operate a larger 68-seat ATR 72-500 aircraft on the Geneva-Toulouse route, while from June the airline will also increase the frequency of the link to three flights per week.
Etihad Regional is the new European brand operated by Swiss-based regional carrier, Darwin Airline, founded in 2003. It serves a range of key secondary markets in Europe. It currently operates two-class flights with a fleet of eight 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft to a network stretching from southern Italy to the UK, but its major hub is in the Swiss city of Geneva.
“We are very excited that we have started this new direct service, linking our Geneva hub with Toulouse,” said Maurizio Merlo, chief executive officer, Etihad Regional. “The new route is an important milestone in our strategy of expanding operations to key regional cities across Europe and providing travellers with greater choice.”
The new route will certainly help boost business and leisure offerings at both ends of the link, while the partnership between the regional carrier and the mainline business at Etihad Airways will provide numerous onward connections for business and leisure travellers from the Midi-Pyrénées region to destinations across Asia, Australasia and the Middle East via Abu Dhabi International Airport.
The new air service will bring competition to a route currently served by low-fare carrier easyJet, which launched its own services on the route in December 2009. According to MIDT data an estimated 79,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew between Geneva and Toulouse in 2013, up 17.8 per cent on the previous year. Since easyJet launched operations on the route average one-way air fares have fallen from $151 to $131, but Etihad Regional believes its wider connection opportunities will enable it to still compete in this market.