Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is preparing to celebrate 15 years of service to its largest and busiest market, India. The airline’s milestone coincides with the third visit to the UAE of India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, highlighting the importance of the partnership between the two countries.
Etihad launched daily flights between the UAE
capital, Abu Dhabi, and the Indian city of Mumbai in September 2004, within the
airline’s first year of operation. Three months later, flights were also
launched between Abu Dhabi and New Delhi.
Today, Etihad operates 159 return flights per
week between Abu Dhabi and 10 key Indian gateways - Ahmedabad, Bengaluru,
Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Mumbai and
Thiruvananthapuram - and through its Abu Dhabi hub, the airline connects each
of these gateways to international destinations throughout the Middle East, Europe,
the Americas, and Africa. Since launching operations to the sub-continent,
Etihad has carried more than 16.5 million passengers on its Indian routes.
Etihad Airways Group CEO Tony Douglas said: “India
and the United Arab Emirates share a long and strong economic, cultural and
diplomatic relationship, and Etihad Airways connects these nations to each
other, and beyond. We serve more
destinations in India than any other country in our network, and connect India
to the world via Abu Dhabi. Globally, we employ more than 4,800 Indian
nationals, almost 25 per cent of our workforce. We contribute strongly to both
economies, and last year spent US $151 million with 480 companies in India. Our
commitment is significant, and will continue to grow.”
Etihad’s offering in the India market continues
to evolve. The airline is continually increasing flights and adding newer,
larger aircraft, including its latest addition, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which
serves cities including Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad.
Etihad Guest, the airline’s loyalty programme, recently
partnered with SBI Card, one of India’s largest credit card providers, to offer
a unique travel-specific Visa credit card to Indian travellers. And for guests
flying Etihad from India to the United States, the Customs and Border
Protection facility at Abu Dhabi Airport, enables US immigration, customs and
agriculture formalities to be completed in Abu Dhabi before departure.
India is an important strategic source market
for Etihad Cargo. In addition to belly space cargo capacity on the 159 weekly
passenger aircraft between Abu Dhabi and India, Etihad Cargo operate dedicated
freighter flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. In the past decade,
Etihad has carried more than 560,000 tonnes of cargo to and from India, from
general cargo to key Indian exports including garments, perishable products,
pharmaceuticals and electronics.
Etihad also continues to support India through a
range of corporate social responsibility initiatives, including its Global
Education Project to provide or raise funds for new education facilities and
supplies. The airline also runs workshops to develop skills and support the empowerment of women, and provides aid to
assist after natural disasters such as floods in Kerala, where it provided
fresh water, clothes, blankets, kitchen utensils and hygiene kits to more than
1,000 people located at a relief camp in the state.
As a minority shareholder in and key partner of Jet Airways, Etihad was able to
improve international connectivity with India, via Abu Dhabi. Even after Jet’s flights were suspended
earlier this year, Etihad worked consistently and constructively to help revive
the Indian carrier, and continues to explore opportunities to collaborate with
other local partners to help serve this rapidly-expanding market.