Etihad Airways's inaugural flight to Nice marks start of new summer routes from Abu Dhabi

The airline will fly to the French Riviera, Crete and Malaga — Zanzibar and Santorini services to follow

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Etihad Airways has launched its summer network with the airline’s inaugural flight to Nice in the French Riviera.

The new seasonal route between Abu Dhabi and the famous seaside destination landed at Cote d’Azur Airport just after 10am on Wednesday.

There was a celebratory atmosphere in the air and on the ground as pilots waved UAE and French flags from the cockpit of the Boeing Dreamliner.

Travellers on the service were given Etihad bags to mark the launch of the seasonal flight.

The tote bags are crafted from upcycled flight blankets with the message “Hello Summer” imprinted on the front. Each contains a reusable drinks bottle and sparkling water.

Etihad is operating two weekly flights from now until September to the seaside destination via its twin-aisle Boeing 787 jets.

The outbound service from the UAE is an extension of the airline's Rome Fiumicino route, which means passengers need to disembark and go through security in Italy, before reboarding the jet for a short 49-minute flight to Nice.

With the transfer included, the journey takes about nine hours. Return flights are non-stop from Nice to Abu Dhabi, with a much more manageable flight time of just over six hours.

Etihad Captain Driss Moussaoui was in charge of the flight, which had wheels up a little after 3am on Wednesday morning in the UAE.

“I was lucky enough to pilot Etihad’s first flight in 2003 and now I’m proud to be chosen to operate this first flight into the south of France,” he told The National.

With the airline operating to Cote d’Azur Airport for the first time, a lot of preparation went into the trip.

“As with all of our operations, this is very carefully planned. The flight operations team first do a risk assessment on Nice airport and then prepare an airport briefing for the pilots. All pilots do flight simulator training at Etihad’s Training Academy before we actually fly the route,” said Moussaoui.

Summer flights to Santorini and Zanzibar

The newest destination for the national airline of the UAE is one of five seasonal routes that Etihad will operate this summer.

Flights to the historic city of Heraklion in Crete and to the Spanish port city of Malaga also commenced on Wednesday.

Two more destinations are being added to the airline's summer network later this week with flights to the Greek isle of Santorini launching on Thursday and services to Zanzibar starting Friday.

Both of these destinations will be serviced by Etihad’s Airbus A320 jets and will have three round-trip flights per week.

“Summer adventurers have plenty to discover with Etihad this year,” said Martin Drew, the airline's senior vice president of global sales.

“From the stunning beaches of the Costa del Sol to the picture-perfect French Riviera, Etihad’s summer network offers even more opportunities to get away and experience the wonder of travel in 2022.”

Etihad’s new routes mean the airline is now flying to more than 70 destinations around the world.

All five seasonal summer routes will be in operation until mid-September.

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Updated: June 15, 2022, 12:47 PM