Etihad Airways will increase flights to Africa's largest economies, Egypt and Nigeria, later this year to meet the growing surge in demand, the Abu Dhabi carrier said on Wednesday.
The airline will increase flights to Cairo beginning in October, bringing the number up to 35 flights per week from its current 28. A new mid-morning departure from Abu Dhabi and an afternoon service will provide additional options between the two cities.
"Cairo is the largest point-to-point market from Abu Dhabi enjoying an increase in tourist traffic to Egypt," said Mohammed Al Bulooki, the executive vice president of commercial for Etihad. He pointed to supporting the "growth of bilateral trade and Egypt's tourism industry".
Trade between the countries totalled US$400 million last year while tourism from the UAE to Egypt is expected to increase by 20 per cent in 2018.
In addition to trade and tourism, an estimated 400,000 Egyptians live in the UAE. The World Bank put remittances to Egypt from the UAE at $1.83 billion in 2015.
The airline said that it would begin adding the additional routes before the actual launch date.
Etihad will also expand its service offering to Africa’s largest economy and fellow Opec member Nigeria. The airline will add a weekend flight to the country in December, increasing the frequency of services to five per week.
Etihad said the demand for this comes from India's cities of Brengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai, as well as Malaysian capital Kuala Lampur.
“Lagos is one of our largest direct markets in sub-Saharan Africa that is showing signs of strength as Nigeria recovers from recession,” Mr Bulooki said. “Against this backdrop, our additional flights will help facilitate the growth.”
Nigeria’s GDP growth rate is expected to more than double to 1.9 per cent next year as a result of manufacturing, financial and IT expansions.