Abu Dhabi airline Etihad has launched a new subsidiary, Etihad Regional, with the announcement it has bought a one-third stake in Swiss regional airline Darwin Airline.
The groundbreaking model will see Darwin's fleet rebranded as Etihad Regional, but they will continue to be operated by Darwin airline and carry the Swiss flag.
Twenty new routes will be added, with 16 new destinations to be launched by mid-2014, the Abu Dhabi carrier confirmed.
Darwin Airline, which began services in 2003 and now has 10 50-seated Saab aircraft and flies to 21 regional European destinations, will be Etihad's seventh equity partner.
Etihad CEO James Hogan said the new model was a game-changer in global aviation.
"It will add to the Etihad airline alliances in a smarter way, bringing secondary European cities into our world network," he said.
"The object is all about network. How do we take our brand into markets that we don't reach in our own right?
"We're talking about second and third tier markets where we will not see Etihad Airways wide bodies.
"(Etihad Regional) gives us the ability to target those cities and help position and build a regional business."
Hogan said there were no plans as yet to invest in new aircraft for Etihad Regional.
The UAE national carrier will look to expand Etihad Regional by tying up with other regional airlines operating from Etihad's hubs in Zurich and Berlin.
The airlines would not disclose the value of the deal.
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