Etihad set to boost capacity on Melbourne route

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Etihad Airways has announced plans to add more seats between Abu Dhabi and Melbourne by introducing a Boeing 777-300ER to the route.

The larger aircraft, to start operating from December 1, will offer 328 seats in a three-class configuration - 36 more than the Airbus A340-600 which is currently flying the Abu Dhabi-Melbourne sector.

James Hogan, Etihad's president and CEO, said the introduction of the larger aircraft reflected the importance to Etihad Airways of the Australian market and Melbourne in particular.

"Etihad Airways' Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights are some of the strongest performers in our network - this year load factors between the two cities have averaged more than 80 per cent.

"Switching to the Boeing 777 gives us 12 percent more seats overall and 25 percent more in business class. This will enable us to increase our share of the corporate and leisure travel market between Australia and Abu Dhabi and beyond to our worldwide network."

Hogan said the introduction of a larger aircraft also presented a growth opportunity for the airline's cargo division, Etihad Cargo.

"The Boeing 777 offers a bellyhold cargo capacity of around 14-16 tonnes which allows us to capitalise on Australia's strong trading relationship with the UAE.

"The UAE is Australia's largest trading partner in the Middle East and, last year, two-way merchandise trade between Australia and the UAE was worth around $5.13 billion."

Etihad Airways started flights between Abu Dhabi and Melbourne in 2009.

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