UAE’s flag carrier Etihad Airways, which owns 24 per cent in Jet Airways, on Wednesday sounded bullish on India, saying over the next year it will add more flights, beginning with a third daily service from New Delhi to Abu Dhabi from May 1.
This additional flight from the national capital will take its weekly services to 140, making it the largest Gulf carrier in the country connecting 11 cities with Kolkata being the latest destination from early this month.
These increases mean from May, Etihad and Jet will together offer 224 weekly return flights connecting 15 Indian cities, making it the largest Gulf carrier, Etihad said in a statement quoting its President & Chief Executive James Hogan.
Etihad and Jet jointly operate 5 daily flights from Mumbai, 3 from New Delhi (beginning May), three from Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi; two from Ahmedabad and Kozhikode and one from Jaipur, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram.
On expansion, Mr. Hogan said, “over the next 12 months, we will add more frequencies to our India network and deploy new wide-body planes, including Boeing 787s.”
From February 15, the airline added a new daily service on the Mumbai-Abu Dhabi and Kolkata-Abu Dhabi routes.
In 2014, Etihad carried almost 7 lakh people to the country on its network, it said, adding it ferried 14.8 million passengers in the year from 111 global destinations.
These expansions are complemented by the recently launched Jet daily services from Goa and Lucknow to Abu Dhabi.
From March 29, Jet will connect Ahmedabad, Pune and Mangalore with Abu Dhabi, Etihad said.
Hogan described the investment in Jet as productive since the Naresh Goyal-run airline is now on “a firm path to recovery showing strong operational and financial performance having reported first net profit after seven successive quarters of losses.”
He hoped Jet will break-even within the next three years on the back of a slew of measures.
Promising to continue to invest in the domestic aviation sector, Mr. Hogan said, “We made a pledge to support growth of Indian tourism, aviation, and commerce by working alongside Jet to bring business and leisure travellers.
“Etihad continues to open up access to primary and regional airports and create employment opportunities through these operations. With Jet, we’re constantly exploring new opportunities with local tourism bodies and organisations.”
Etihad entered India in 2004 from Mumbai, just a year after its launch. It is a major recruiter of Indians, with its Abu Dhabi base alone employing around 1,700 of them. At present 2,860 Indians are working with Etihad, representing 16 per cent of its total workforce.