By Andy Sambidge
Airline reportedly set to shift a third of international flights as part of pending deal with Etihad
Jet Airways, India's second-largest airline, is reportedly in the process of shifting a third of its international operations to Abu Dhabi.
The move comes in anticipation of the sale of a 24 percent stake to Etihad Airways for about $300m, sources have told local media.
Starting May 16, Jet Airways will connect Kuwait via Abu Dhabi from Kochi instead of through a direct flight, the sources said.
They added that the airline will explore similar options such as flying to Najaf in Iraq, Cairo in Egypt, Beirut in Lebanon and Amman in Jordan — all via Abu Dhabi.
A source told LiveMint: “Jet Airways will certainly move one-third of international operations to Abu Dhabi as it is a natural hub that connects any part of the world with just one stop such as Dubai.
"We will scale down operations in Brussels, but not close down the same as we would use it to connect North America."
Jet Airways currently deploys 3-4 percent of its international capacity through Abu Dhabi. The airline started using the Belgian capital as a hub in 2007 for its flights to North America.
Jet Airways is in talks with Etihad Airways for a potential deal that will make it the first Indian airline to take advantage of rules introduced by the government allowing a foreign airline to pick up a stake of as much as 49 percent in a domestic airline.
Etihad is seeking an assurance from the Indian government against any policy reversal that would mean having to face the same fate that two other Arab airlines faced in the 1990s.
This is a strategic move by Etihad to combat Emirates' dominance on the Indian market. Currently Emirates flies more flights out of India than Air India.