Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways is adding more flights to New York's John F Kennedy International Airport and expanding its codeshare partnership with budget airline JetBlue as it continues to strengthen its services in the US and North America.
The announcement of the new flights, which will begin in November, comes on the back of an improvement in market performance and record demand, as well as the launch of Etihad's Airbus A350 aircraft, called Sustainability50, in June, the airline said on Saturday.
The new aircraft is currently plying two routes in the US, with flights from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and New York JFK.
These are part of its four services on its North American network, which include Washington and Toronto.
Meanwhile, New York-based JetBlue has been a codeshare partner with Etihad since 2014, and their partnership currently applies across 46 destinations in the Americas.
They already have a codeshare agreement for the Chicago and New York routes while one for the Washington and Toronto routes will be “added soon”. The airlines are also developing a frequent flyer programme, they said.
“The US remains one of our leading markets and that is why New York and Chicago were amongst the first destinations to be serviced by Etihad’s new A350,” Tony Douglas, group chief executive of Etihad Airways, said at an event in New York to announce the expanded services.
“We are proud to continue to offer our guests a premier travel experience and enhanced connectivity through our growing partnership with JetBlue.”
Representatives from Abu Dhabi's tourism sector were at the event, including Mohammed Al Zaabi, chief executive of Miral Asset Management, Husain Al Hashmi, regional manager of Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism, and Francois Bourienne, chief commercial officer of Abu Dhabi Airports.
A resurgence in air travel demand, which was brought to a standstill by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, has helped the airline industry to recover, especially over the past year as restrictions and flight bans related to the health crisis were lifted.
Airlines are expected to narrow their losses to $9.7bn in 2022, from $42bn last year, as air travel demand makes a strong rebound, with a return to profitability expected in 2023, the International Air Transport Association said in June.
Etihad last month reported a record profit in the first half of 2022 — the highest in its 18-year history — citing a strong rebound in passenger travel demand, growth in cargo revenue and the lifting of domestic Covid-19 curbs.
The airline returned to profitability with a core operating income of $296 million in the first six months of this year, compared to a half-year loss of $392m in 2021, buoyed by a fourfold increase in the number of passengers carried during the period.
Steadily improving conditions have allowed Etihad and its affiliated units to ramp up its services, with Saturday's announcement linked to its most recent action last month, when its logistics arm, Etihad Cargo, said it would add 50 tonnes of belly-hold capacity to the US from November 15.
The additional capacity will come through four new weekly direct passenger flights to New York JFK.
Etihad last month confirmed an initial commitment with Airbus for seven of the Toulouse-based plane maker's A350 freighters as it expects the cargo market to remain strong.
The airline signed a letter of intent to order the cargo aircraft during the Singapore Airshow in February.
Positive developments in aviation have, in turn, boosted passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Etihad's base, which nearly quadrupled during the second quarter of 2022.
The aviation hub handled 3.6 million passengers in the three months to the end of June, an almost fivefold increase from the same quarter last year, Abu Dhabi Airports said last month.
Also in August, Etihad announced it would be doubling its services to Manila from October 30, with flights to the Philippine capital set to be operated using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
History was also made last month when Etihad promoted Aisha Al Mansoori to captain, making her the first female pilot of a UAE airline.