Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways have been allotted more flights to Australia, boosting their interest in the lucrative "Kangaroo Route" connecting the country with the UK. Officials from the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) confirmed that 14 additional weekly flights have been awarded to the two long-haul carriers, which will split them equally starting in March next year.
The negotiations were concluded as the bilateral agreement between Australia and the UAE was about to expire. The new allotments will help the two airlines in their quest to connect East and West through their hubs in the Gulf. Along with Qatar Airways, they are among the nearly 20 carriers that fly the popular route, including Qantas, Singapore Airlines and British Airways. "We are committed to this important market and look forward to carrying greater numbers of business and leisure travellers from destinations across Etihad's expanding network to Australia," James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad, said yesterday.
"The announcement that Etihad Airways has been granted up to 14 additional flights each week is an indication of the airline's deepening bond with Australia." The agreement allows for further flights if the airlines also fly via or to a regional airport in Australia, Etihad said. Emirates, which began flying to Australia 14 years ago, now has 70 flights a week to destinations including Sydney, Melbourne and Perth - an increase from 49 flights a week just three years ago.
Etihad, which opened services there in 2007, flies 21 times a week, including 11 flights to Sydney, seven to Melbourne and three to Brisbane. Qatar Airways flies to Melbourne and is expected to launch direct flights to Sydney later this year. Both UAE carriers have invested heavily in promoting themselves in the country. Emirates has been the main sponsor of Australia's top horse race, the Emirates Melbourne Cup, and recently opened its US$125 million (Dh459m) Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa in the Blue Mountains near Sydney.
Etihad took over sponsorship of the Docklands football stadium in Melbourne, which has been renamed Etihad Stadium. After a difficult year, Gulf airlines are preparing for a return in global demand for air travel. Last month, total air traffic movements in and out of the UAE grew by near 10 per cent to 51,800, according to the GCAA. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org