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Sat 13 Aug 2011 09:43 AM

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Etihad CEO sees China, India key to future growth

Airline chief says its network hub strategy will be built around 'huge opportunities' in two countries

Etihad CEO sees China, India key to future growth

Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan has said his airline's future growth strategy will be built around opportunities in China and India.

Delivering the inaugural Australia-Gulf Lecture at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, he reflected on the major economic and societal changes in Asia and the Middle East and their impact on global aviation.

"Our future network hub strategy is built around the huge opportunities we see in provincial China, regional India and in other under-served growth areas," he added.

Last month, Etihad announced it will launch services to Chengdu in southwest China from December 15, subject to government approval.

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and the airline's 69th destination, will be connected to the airline's hub in Abu Dhabi by four non-stop return services per week.

"There are 11 million people in Chengdu and 81 million people in Sichuan province. Sustained wages growth is unlocking the discretionary income for these citizens to travel for the first time," said Hogan in his speech.

Etihad will be the first airline to offer direct flights between Sichuan and the Middle East.

Hogan added: “The Arabian Gulf is a consequential player in this new Asian paradigm. It now finds itself at a geographic crossroads, between the Old World and the New. Its oil is literally fuelling the urbanisation of regional China and the South Asian Subcontinent.”

He told the audience in Sydney that aviation was "the absolute lifeblood of the UAE’s future economic prospects".

"Because of this, the emirates and their airlines are deadly serious about success in this sector,” he said.

Hogan also spoke of the UAE’s growing bilateral and trade relationship between Australia and the United Arab Emirates

“Australia, like Abu Dhabi, is blessed with natural resources that are essential for the growth and urbanisation of emerging markets,” he said. “And because of the UAE’s rise as a global transport hub, it is a valuable partner in the globalisation of the Australian economy."

The speech comes as Etihad embarks on a major nationwide advertising campaign in Australia in a bid to grow its market share and take customers from homegrown airlines such as Qantas.

The campaign urges Australians to "change to the best" and showcases the airline's "superior product and service offering".

The campaign is part Etihad's ambition to become the airline of choice for overseas travel from Australia, the carrier said in a statement.

It follows a tie-up with the country's number two airline Virgin Blue which was given the green light by Australia's competition watchdog in February.

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