Jet deal opens up the skies to India and beyond for Etihad

Connectivity to increase as Jet looks to organise non-stop flights to Australia, China, Europe and closer neighbours.

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NEW DELHI // Jet is looking to operate non-stop flights to Europe, China, Australia, the Middle East, South East Asia and neigbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, said Naresh Goyal, the Jet chairman.

“Our focus remains to develop hubs in Mumbai and Delhi,” he said.

Jet will also link more points in India to Abu Dhabi, for onward connections, besides operating its own flights beyond Abu Dhabi to North America and the Middle East, and increase frequencies to Abu Dhabi. New routes will be introduced between Abu Dhabi and Goa, Ahmedabad, Pune and Lucknow by the year-end.

Focus will also remain on the international sector as competition increases in the domestic carrier market.

“Our international operations are already profitable and contribute 45 per cent to our total revenue,” said Naresh Goyal, the chairman of Jet Airways. “We [plan to] increase the contribution to 63 per cent by 2015.”

For Etihad, the partnership means access to more than 50 destinations in India through Jet and 42 million travellers in India’s domestic market. It currently has access to 20 destinations in India.

Moreover, India’s international traffic is growing at 10 per cent annually and is expected to reach the 100 million mark by 2023, according to the consultancy Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa).

Etihad meanwhile plans to start a daily service to Kolkata from next February.

While the Abu Dhabi carrier expects the partnership to improve cargo capacity between the UAE and India and beyond to New York and Paris, the figures have been falling over the past few years.

India exported goods worth US$30.49 billion to the UAE, a drop of 16 per cent, and imported $29.11bn from the UAE, a decrease of 25.61 per cent for the financial year ended March, according to the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi.

As the Jet-Etihad partnership is regarded as a significant deal, it is also attracting scrutiny from outside India. Last month, a fair trade watchdog Competition Commission of Singapore started looking into the the anti-competitive nature of the deal.

“We have been very clear with foreign direct investment that we followed every regulation,” said James Hogan, the president and chief executive of Etihad. “We wouldn’t have got the deal approved if we didn’t.”

In November, the Competition Commission of India approved the transaction, saying it would not adversely effect competition in India.

With the rise of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, the global airline hubs have slowly moved to the Middle East from East Asia, connecting flights from the Americas to Australia.

“Jet-Etihad is a game-changing deal for Etihad and the Abu Dhabi hub,” said Kapil Kaul, Capa’s chief executive for South Asia. “Ability to invest billions of dollars are unique to these Middle East hub carriers; it is battle between these three Middle East hubs now and for rest, accepting this reality and working with them seems a logical choice.”

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