United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier, Etihad Airways is increasing its presence in Morocco with the launch of a new twice-weekly service between Abu Dhabi and Rabat, the first direct link between the two capitals and the only scheduled air link between the UAE and Rabat
The new service is Etihad’s second destination in Morocco and complements its existing daily service to Casablanca. It will launch from January 15, 2016 and will be operated on Wednesdays and Fridays using a three-class Airbus A340-500 configured to carry a total of 240 passengers, with 12 in First Class, 28 in Business Class, and 200 in Economy Class.
The introduction of the two additional return flights increases to nearly 4,200 the total number of seats available to passengers travelling by Etihad between the UAE and Morocco each week and comes as the carrier prepares to celebrate ten years of operations into the North African country.
“Our service to Casablanca has performed strongly since it was launched in June 2006 and I am delighted to build on this success with the introduction of the additional service to Rabat,” said James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Airways.
“The new service provides passengers with more choice and two-way connectivity between Morocco and the UAE, and onwards over our hub in Abu Dhabi to key destinations across our global network,” he added.
The UAE and Morocco are united by a long history of cooperation and the growth of economic and trade relations between the two countries has developed significantly over recent years, with major UAE exports to Morocco including petrochemicals, metals, foodstuff products, transport equipment, tools and appliances.
Like the UAE, the Moroccan Government has made significant investments in the development of its tourism industry. In 2010 the government launched its Vision 2020 which includes plans to make Morocco one of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world and double the number of international arrivals into Morocco to 20 million per annum by 2020.
“We remain committed to building sustainable ties in the North African region and deepening the strong relationship between Morocco and the United Arab Emirates,” said Hogan.
Etihad is able to extend its reach across North Africa through its codeshare agreement with Royal Air Maroc, providing passengers with direct flights from Casablanca to destinations throughout Morocco, including Agadir, Marrakech, and Tangier.
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The launch of flights to Rabat early next year, which remain subject to governmental approval, will increase the Etihad network in Africa to ten destinations, adding to services to Johannesburg, Khartoum, Casablanca, Cairo, Lagos, Nairobi, Entebbe, Dar es Salaam (from December 2015) and Mahé in the Seychelles.
Despite being Morocco’s political and administrative capital since independence in 1956, air services to Salé Airport, in Rabat’s sister town, are less developed than at Mohammed V International, the main international gateway, located southwest of the city in Casablanca and Menara Airport in the popular tourist spot of Marrakech.
Rabat is the seventh largest city in Morocco with an urban population of approximately 580,000 and a metropolitan population of over 1.2 million, but has not established itself as a tourist destination like many other destinations in the country
Etihad is the first of the major Gulf hub carriers to introduce flights to Rabat which is currently linked to major European centres by local carrier Royal Air Maroc and low-fare specialists Ryanair and Vueling, while Air France provides the only current hub link into Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport.
It will bring enhanced connection opportunities between Rabat and points in its network across the GCC, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia, drawing many passengers away from Morocco’s Casablanca hub.
The UAE carrier is one of only a handful of airline’s still operating the A340-500 which was launched by Airbus to support longer-range missions but which is now been used in more mainstream operations. Etihad is currently using the type on its flights from Abu Dhabi to Cairo, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Seoul and Tokyo Narita according to OAG schedule data.