Etihad Airways today outlined a range of major changes to its Australian operations, including new aircraft, a new route to Perth, additional flights and new airport facilities.
Speaking in Sydney at the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit, James Hogan, President and Chief Executive, said Australia was a key and long-term market for the airline and one for which there were exciting growth plans. These include:
· Airbus A380 aircraft from Sydney and Melbourne to Abu Dhabi
· Construction of premium lounges at Sydney and Melbourne Airports from 2014
· Additional flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to Abu Dhabi
· Commencement of nonstop flights between Perth and Abu Dhabi
He also reaffirmed that Etihad Airways was already moving to increase its equity in Virgin Australia, following recent approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board to increase from a 10% shareholding to 19.9%.
“Virgin Australia is a key member of our ever-expanding airline equity alliance, and Etihad Airways is an active and long-term investor in Virgin,” Mr Hogan said. “We have a significant presence in Australia, with 28 weekly departures, annual expenditure of over $100 million, direct employment of 106 staff and engagement of 415 local contractors,” he said.
“The Virgin Australia partnership enables us to connect with 45 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia, while we reciprocate by providing connections via our Abu Dhabi hub to a wide range of destinations in Europe, UK, Ireland and Africa.”
Hogan also highlighted the contribution of codeshare partners such as Air France, KLM, Alitalia and Air Serbia to strengthening Etihad Airways’ position between Australia and Europe.
“Together with our partners, we have a continuous wave of flights coming down from Europe over our global hub in Abu Dhabi with connections to a significant network of destinations,” he said.
He said that the Etihad Airways equity alliance – an alternative to legacy airline alliances – now had five members, following a deal last week to invest in Serbia’s national airline.
Etihad Airways also is awaiting regulatory approval for investment in a sixth airline, India’s Jet Airways, which gives the equity alliance a combined total of more than 420 destinations, 500 aircraft and more than 96 million passengers each year.
While in Sydney, Hogan will also host a VIP event at Sydney Opera House to celebrate Etihad Airways’ 10th anniversary and its sixth year of flying to Australia. The airline is a major partner of Sydney Opera House having signed a three-year agreement with the iconic World Heritage-listed performing arts centre in January this year.