The Scotsman

Abu Dhabi flights to be scrapped

● Airline to ground service to its Middle Eastern hub in October after three years

- By ALASTAIR DALTON

Etihad Airways is set to scrap its Edinburgh flights to Abu Dhabi, The Scotsman has learned.

The daily service will end in October, just three years after being launched.

The decision will come as a major blow to Etihad and Edinburgh Airport. The airline’s former chief executive, James Hogan, said in 2014 that it would launch two Scottish routes, with the second one due to start by 2020.

Etihad Airways is to drop its Edinburgh flights to Abu Dhabi, The Scotsman has learned.

The daily service will end in October, just three years after being launched in competitio­n with Qatar Airways to Doha.

Most passengers have used the hubs as stepping stones to other destinatio­ns on the airlines’ long-haul networks such as in Asia and Australia.

However, Etihad has a smaller network of destinatio­ns than Qatar or Emirates, which flies twice a day between Glasgow and Dubai.

The decision will come as a major blow to Etihad and Edinburgh Airport following previous announceme­nts of expansion. The airline’s then chief executive James Hogan said in Scotland in 2014 that it would launch two Scottish routes. The second one was due to start by 2020.

An aviation source said: “The route closure decision fits with a period of cutbacks Etihad has been making across its network and a relatively poor performanc­e at Edinburgh.

“Qatar Airways will also be upgrading to larger Airbus A350 from Edinburgh at the same time.

“The new China flight between Edinburgh and Beijing from June won’t help Etihad’s economics in the route.”

Aviation analyst John Strickland, of JLS Consulting, said: “Etihad is in a major phase of retrenchme­nt, having exited several of its investment­s including Air Berlin and Alitalia, and also divesting of aircraft and closing routes.

“Emirates also continues to perform strongly on its Glasgow to Dubai service.

“The Edinburgh global market is a large one, but the pace of competitio­n has increased to the Gulf and Asia.

“Now the Abu Dhabi route is paying the price of this and Etihad’s wider strategic review as it stems its losses.”

Ken Mcleod, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents Associatio­n, which represents travel agents, said: “We are very disappoint­ed that any airline has to pull a route, but noone underestim­ates the challenge of Etihad, Emirates and Qatar sustaining four flights a day from Scotland to worldwide destinatio­ns via the Middle East. The introducti­on of a direct China flight with Hainan this summer won’t have been the main reason why Etihad may pull out, but it won’t have helped.

“If Scotland loses Etihad, we will be very sorry because there has been a lot of hard work put in over the last three years. However, Edinburgh has a huge number of destinatio­ns in its portfolio and will continue to grow and prosper with its wide variety of carriers.”

Etihad is expected to confirm its decision within days, but did not deny the route would be closed. Its spokesman said: “Etihad Airways continues to review its network and make a select number of adjustment­s which will be announced at the appropriat­e time, taking into account the needs of our staff, partners, and customers.”

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