Etihad’s expansion in India
The UAE’s national carrier, Etihad Airways launched in 2003, a year before it began operations to Mumbai in September 2004, followed by Delhi. Since then, it has added many more Indian destinations to its route map. In 2013 it partnered with India’s full-service airline, Jet Airways and together, both have 14 direct flights between Abu Dhabi, Etihad’s hub, and India.
Etihad Airways closed its ticketing offices in India this April, but this doesn’t mean the country isn’t a port of importance to the airline. In a world that’s rapidly turning digital, airline passengers find booking through websites easier, as opposed to visiting a booking office.
The same applies to Etihad passengers in India who can continue making flight reservations through the airline’s website and call centre support. Etihad says that this move from physical offices in India to online travel agencies follows the growing demand for 24/7 access to the reservation desk. At the time this announcement was made, Arabian
Business quoted an Etihad spokesperson: “As part of our commitment to service guests round-the-clock, Etihad is increasing its service delivery by switching to a 24/7 support operation. Our staff at the 24/7 service centre are fully equipped to help with all new bookings and re-issuing of tickets, ensuring guests continue to get the same level of service that they were offered by the ticketing offices [in India], which have now closed.”
Further, in the last week of April, Etihad Airways and Jet Airways have signed an agreement with the Government of Maharashtra to boost domestic and international arrivals into the state capital, Mumbai and onward connections to other cities, through various marketing mediums.
James Hogan, Etihad Aviation Group’s president and CEO, says, “Being part of one of the world’s largest economies, Maharashtra has plenty to offer business and leisure travellers. We are therefore delighted to expand our links to promote tourism to this vibrant state, which we have been serving with dedicated flights for 13 years. This is the first time a state government in India has ventured into such a tourism partnership with the airline industry, hence we appreciate the opportunity to work with our strategic Indian partner Jet Airways on the breakthrough agreement. Our combined operation with Jet Airways between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai, complemented by Jet’s widespread domestic services, is further testament to the importance of Maharashtra on our route map.”
Just a few weeks before the announcement to close ticketing offices here, on March 26 Etihad Airways launched a third service between Abu Dhabi and Bengaluru. It is either of the A320, A321 or A322 aircraft that serve the route, giving options to fly early morning (0435 hours), mid-morning (0955 hours) or late evening (2210 hours) from Bengaluru.
In similar efforts to offer a wider choice to its passengers, in May the airline launched a fourth daily non-stop service to Kozhikode in Kerala. This additional service takes the total number of weekly flights between Abu Dhabi and the southern state of Kerala to 63 — making up about 30 per cent of Etihad Airways’ total Indian operations.
Currently, the Gulf airline flies four flights daily to Kozhikode, three flights a day to Kochi and double daily services to Thiruvananthapuram — also in Kerala. Jet Airways, its strategic partner operates seven flights a week between Kochi and Abu Dhabi.
Other Indian cities to which Etihad Airways has direct flights from Abu Dhabi are Ahmedabad (four times weekly), Chennai (daily), Hyderabad (daily), Jaipur (five times weekly), Kochi (daily), Kolkata (daily), Mumbai (daily), Delhi (daily) and Thiruvananthapuram (daily). Its partner, Jet Airways offers direct services from additional Indian cities of Lucknow (daily), Mangalore (daily) and Pune (daily) to Abu Dhabi.
Jet Airways has also announced plans to launch direct flights from Kannur and Chandigarh to Abu Dhabi this year, subject to appropriate regulatory approvals and completion of operational readiness at these airports.
With Abu Dhabi being a short flight of about four hours away from India, MICE groups have recently been tempted to host sessions in the UAE capital. Acknowledging this need, Etihad Airways has a dedicated service to address meeting, incentive and conference group requests to the emirate. It helps with booking packages that start from flights and continue to include hotels and event services too.