Etihad Airways said an overhaul of its route network will help the airline's sustainable expansion in its next phase of growth, increase Abu Dhabi's connections to key business markets and support the emirate's tourism push.
The airline mapped a winter season schedule that will introduce new destinations, add more flight frequencies to key routes and provide passengers with better departure times, it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Etihad Airways also announced two new routes in India, to Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, which will be launched in January 2024.
This takes the number of new routes revealed so far this year to 11 points in Europe, Asia and US.
“As we embark on Etihad’s next chapter targeting growth, our ambitious network and improved connectivity allows us to better serve Abu Dhabi … forming the basis of our future expansion while providing flexibility and freedom to adapt to new opportunities and markets,” Antonoaldo Neves, chief executive of Etihad Airways, said.
“By offering more travel options and seamless connections, we aim to attract an increasing number of visitors to Abu Dhabi, propelling economic growth for the city while enriching the travel experience for our passengers.”
Etihad Airways has already announced the launch of nine new destinations this year, including Kolkata, St Petersburg, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen, Osaka, and Boston. Malaga, Mykonos and Lisbon were introduced as summer destinations, but the Portuguese capital will now become a year-round service.
The new routes will be rolled out, starting in September and through to January 2024, according to the airline's winter schedule.
The move comes amid a strong rebound in air travel demand, which Etihad seeks to meet by returning its Airbus A380 double-deckers into service starting in July after a three-year pandemic-induced grounding.
Global passenger traffic continued to improve in June, reaching 94 per cent of pre-Covid levels, as the summer travel season in the Northern Hemisphere got off to a strong start, the International Air Transport Association said.
Total traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometres, rose 31 per cent in June compared to the same month in 2022, Iata said in its monthly report.
In the first half of 2023, total traffic jumped 47.2 per cent compared to the same period last year, buoyed by growth in both domestic and international trips.
International traffic climbed 33.7 per cent compared to June 2022 with all markets recording robust growth, Iata said. International travel demand reached 88.2 per cent of June 2019 levels. In the first half of 2023, international traffic was up 58.6 per cent from the six-month period in 2022.
Besides rolling out new routes, Etihad Airways has also increased the frequency of flights to Chennai, Islamabad, Kochi, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Rome and Phuket, the airline said on Wednesday. Cairo, Colombo and the Maldives will also get additional flights.
The updated schedules have been timed for departures from Abu Dhabi at 2pm (local time), so that visitors can experience Abu Dhabi's hotels and attractions until their checkout time, the airline said.
“A priority of the network is to play a vital role in supporting Abu Dhabi's ambitions for economic growth,” Etihad Airways said.
Improved point-to-point connections will benefit Abu Dhabi, solidifying the emirate's position as a business and tourism hub, the airline said.
“With the launch of its revamped network, Etihad is entering a new phase of growth and connectivity,” it said.
Etihad Airways aims to triple its number of passengers to 30 million and double its fleet to 150 planes by 2030 as it maps out the “next chapter of growth”, aided by its new planned airport terminal in Abu Dhabi, its chief executive said in an interview in May.
The airline plans to grow by 10 per cent annually over the next seven years in terms of number of passengers carried and available seats per kilometre.
The plan is to connect travellers in China, India, Pakistan, South East Asia and the Gulf region to destinations in Europe and the east coast of the US via its Abu Dhabi hub in a restructuring of its network over the next decade, Mr Neves said.