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‘In 2014, Etihad Airways will expand its destination network in India’

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As a result of Etihad – Jet Airways tie-up do you foresee Abu Dhabi emerging as the biggest Middle East hub for Indian travellers in the future?

Neerja Bhatia

Through our purchase of 24 per cent of Jet Airways – the first foreign investment permitted in an Indian airline – we have laid the foundation for major growth in air services between Abu Dhabi and India, and beyond throughout our global network. India is a key market for us and now travellers from India will have more opportunities to connect to destinations via Abu Dhabi throughout the GCC, Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America, while those flying to India will benefit from additional seats and more convenient travel timings.

What is the significance of US Customs and Immigration preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi Airport?

Abu Dhabi Airport’s growing position as a leading global gateway has been further reinforced by the introduction of this preclearance facility. The facility allows passengers to clear US Customs and Immigration in Abu Dhabi, enabling them to arrive in the US as domestic passengers and significantly reducing travel time.

What are your immediate expansion plans for the India market?

In 2014, Etihad Airways will expand its destination network in India with the launch of a daily service from Abu Dhabi to Jaipur in April. This new flight will bring the total number of Indian cities served by Etihad Airways to ten. Etihad Airways will also start operating a second new daily flight between Abu Dhabi and New York City on March 1, 2014 providing additional one-stop links to the US for Indian travellers and an easy, new option for travel from America to India.

The new flights will be operated by Etihad Airways with two three class Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, to be leased from Jet Airways. Jet Airways will operate these flights from May 1, 2014. The new Abu Dhabi – New York flight has been scheduled to connect in both directions with services by Etihad Airways, Jet Airways or both carriers to and from six Indian cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. As well as more flights, Etihad Airways will introduce larger aircraft in some markets. The new Airbus 321 aircraft, will be used on all Abu Dhabi-Chennai services, and between Abu Dhabi and Kochi from June 2014. This is in addition to the recently announced upgrade of Abu Dhabi to Mumbai with a three class A340-600 and Abu Dhabi to Delhi on an A330-200. Subject to regulatory approvals in a range of countries, Etihad Airways and Jet Airways also plan to codeshare on each other’s flights between Abu Dhabi, India and other markets in the Middle East, North America and Europe.

How significant is the India market in your global vision?

India is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for air travel, and a market in which we see significant opportunities. There are significant traffic flows between the sub-continent and the Arabian Gulf countries, and we expect that to continue growing in the coming years.