Etihad announces flights to Moscow

The airline will serve the Russian capital five times a week from Dec 1, adding its 50th route since it launched in 2003.

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ABU DHABI // Etihad Airways announced yesterday it will begin flying to Moscow on Dec 1 from its base in Abu Dhabi, adding its 50th route since the airline launched in 2003 and connecting two of the world's fastest growing economic centres. Moscow, home to the most billionaires in the world, will be served by Etihad five times a week using an Airbus A319 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and an Airbus A320 on Thursdays. Both single-aisled aircraft will have two classes of seating.

James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad, said Russia represented an important emerging market for the Abu Dhabi airline. Last year, Russia's GDP grew by 8.1 per cent, driven by non-tradable services and goods for the domestic market, the country's Statistics Department reported. Russian investors have flocked to the UAE and poured Dh1.6 billion (US$436 million) into the local property market last year, said Akar Properties, which opened an office in Russia in 2005.

UAE firms have also begun seeking opportunities in Russia. Arabtec Construction won a Dh10bn contract to build a 400-metre tower in St Petersburg, while Limitless, the property developer based in Dubai, has also signalled interest in the Russian market. Etihad said it would seek to capture a share of the transit passengers flying from Russia to onward destinations. The airline has scheduled many of its flights departing Abu Dhabi to synchronise with the arrival of its Moscow service, including flights bound for Johannesburg, Sydney, Peshawar, Jeddah, Kuwait, Karachi and destinations in Kerala, India.

The Russian capital will be Etihad's third new destination to a former Soviet state this year. In August it launched flights to Minsk, Belarus. Also in December, the airline will begin service to Almaty, Kazakhstan. The addition of these new flights will bring Etihad's total number of international destinations serving Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas to 50. Round-trip business-class tickets to Moscow will cost an introductory fare of Dh6,900 and economy seats will cost Dh690, the airline said.

In addition to passengers, Etihad will carry between one and 1.5 tonnes of cargo. Last month, Etihad placed one of the largest aircraft orders in civil aviation history at the Farnborough Air Show, for up to 205 aircraft, including the agreement's built-in options, worth roughly $43bn. Moscow will be Etihad's 11th European destination along with Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Manchester, Milan, Munich and Paris.