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Thu 2 Jun 2016 09:08 AM

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Etihad in talks with China over expanded air rights

Aviation group seeks more partnerships with Chinese airlines as it plans growth in Asia

Etihad in talks with China over expanded air rights

Etihad Airways has applied for increased air rights in China so it can fly to more cities and “close any gaps in its network”, said group president and CEO James Hogan.

Etihad operates flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu under codeshare agreements with China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

Last month it appointed a new general manager for China, Peter Li, responsible for growing the group’s presence in the region.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the International Air Travel Association’s annual conference in Dublin this week, Hogan said Etihad wanted to partner with more Chinese airlines and increase traffic flows to the country.

“Over the horizon, we want more partnerships with Chinese airlines and we applied for [the rights to fly to] secondary Chinese cities to close gaps in our network,” he said.

“We already have strong codeshares in China. Ultimately we want more Chinese passengers flying into Abu Dhabi, but we are playing the long game.”

Etihad is also targeting growth in Africa but it is taking time to secure the necessary rights there, too. “It is proving difficult due to the regulatory process,” Hogan explained.

Similarly, the airline plans to deepen its partnership with Air France-KLM in Europe but Hogan said the process of working out an expanded deal is complicated.

“We have a good relationship [with Air France-KLM] and are working to agree commercial principals, including the terms of revenue split on routes.

“Remember we are a young airline, it’s not a race."

Hogan also confirmed reports that its equity partner Alitalia was in due diligence talks with AirMalta over the possible acquisition of a 49 percent stake in the airline to boost services to customers.

It came despite earlier denials by Hogan that such discussions were taking place.

On the US battle over alleged subsidies received by Gulf carriers, Hogan said: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s business as usual.”

“I can’t say too much,” he added. We’ve submitted all of our documents as have the other Gulf airlines – apart from that [the dispute] has not stopped our growth in the US.

“We have no new routes planned but we have continued to grow our codeshares.”

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