By Andy Sambidge
Abu Dhabi airline's CEO says in talks with carriers about commercial partnerships
Etihad Airways said on Monday it is currently in talks with South American-based carriers about potential commercial partnerships.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline is keen to expand its footprint in South America, said president and CEO James Hogan in a statement.
Etihad Airways currently has 38 codeshare partnerships with airlines around the globe, resulting in a combined network of 323 destinations, more than any other Middle Eastern airline.
The airline will launch its first route in South America on June 1, 2013, with daily non-stop flights to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Hogan said: "Brazil is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, now ranking as the sixth largest since overtaking the UK in 2011.
"Bilateral trade between Brazil and the UAE is valued at nearly $3bn annually, with authorities aiming to lift this to $10bn within five years."
He said there are 25 major Brazilian companies with offices in Abu Dhabi while Mubadala, the development company of the Government of Abu Dhabi, last year signalled its intent to begin investments in Brazil, valued at up to $13bn.
Beyond its own organic growth, codeshare partnerships and equity stakes are a significant and growing part of the airline's expansion strategy.
Etihad Airways holds a 30 percent stake in Air Berlin, 40 percent of Air Seychelles, three percent of Aer Lingus and 10 percent of Virgin Australia.
Hogan was in Sao Paulo last week to meet prominent local diplomats, travel industry executives, media and corporate representatives.