By Stanley Carvalho
Abu Dhabi based carrier boosts destinations to attract more visitors to Gulf.
Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said it plans to add its first destinations in the former Soviet Union and to expand in Australia to transit more passengers through the Gulf and attract more people to the UAE.
The airline, owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, plans to fly to Moscow in December, the Kazakh city of Almaty next year and then to the Belarus capital, Minsk, Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said in an interview on Thursday.
The carrier, which flies to 44 destinations as far apart as New York and Beijing, also plans to increase the number of flights on its Sydney and Brisbane routes, and add Melbourne - and either Perth or Adelaide, Hogan said in Abu Dhabi.
"Our aim is to offer the best connections that will give a significant boost to the strong commercial ties between Abu Dhabi and these places," said Hogan.
Gulf Arab airlines, most of which are owned by their governments, have been buying billions of dollars' worth of aircraft, capitalising on their location between Europe, East Asia and Africa to expand the region as a hub for international passenger traffic and take market share from rivals such as British Airways and Qantas Airways.
The biggest international carriers in the Gulf are Dubai-based Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad.
Etihad will increase daily flights to Sydney to double daily this year, and daily to Brisbane from three times a week, Hogan said.
It will fly to Beijing on Sunday for the first time and to the Indian city of Calicut in June, its fifth destination in the country.
"If India opens up, we are interested in flying to secondary cities," Hogan said.
Etihad, which operated a fleet of 37 aircraft at the end of last year, plans to order between 50 and 100 jetliners this summer, an executive said on Wednesday, setting up what could be one of the year's big battles between aircraft makers Airbus and Boeing. (Reuters)For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
What on earth is there to do in the UAE to fly all these people over there? All I remember was traffic jams, dust and a couple of decent beaches.