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Heathrow and JFK - favourite destinations for Indians using our airline: Etihad GM

Speaking to DH’s Lavpreet Kaur, ahead of this commencement, Salil Nath, General Manager - Indian Subcontinent, Etihad Airways elaborated on the airline's top priorities in India, latest travel trends, expansion plans and the global aviation market.
Last Updated 21 December 2023, 22:24 IST

Bengaluru: At a time when India’s air traffic has taken off big time, with both its domestic airlines winging out to international destinations and international airlines deepening their regional reach in the country, UAE’s national carrier, Etihad Airways is set to launch direct flights from its home Abu Dhabi to Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram from January 1, 2024. This will take its total count of destinations in India to 10. Speaking to DH’s Lavpreet Kaur, ahead of this commencement, Salil Nath, General Manager - Indian Subcontinent, Etihad Airways elaborated on the airline's top priorities in India, latest travel trends, expansion plans and the global aviation market. 

Edited excerpts. 

Share your view on the Indian market. Which are your most robust routes here?

The travel demand between the UAE and India is swiftly rebounding and showing sustained growth. Notably, Indian travellers are increasingly seeking luxury experiences, cultural exploration, and international destinations. Currently, London and the United States top the list of preferred destinations. The introduction of the A380 to JFK and Abu Dhabi's US pre-clearance services has made these routes consistently popular throughout the year.

How important is India to your business? 

India is one of the largest and most significant markets for Etihad worldwide. The fact that we are commemorating twenty years of operations this year underscores the immense potential this market holds. Etihad plays a vital role in facilitating travel and trade between the UAE and India. Our approach to network planning has been practical, focusing on adding new opportunities in response to growth and demand. As a result, our network has consistently grown, currently covering 10 major cities (Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata and now Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram).

What are the top priorities in your India strategy?

Our strategy is rooted in enhancing connectivity to the Indian subcontinent and contributing to the strengthening of bilateral relations between India and the UAE.

What are the challenges you find in expanding your presence in India? 

The Indian aviation market is fiercely competitive, with numerous airlines operating both domestically and internationally. Thus, the airlines and the industry, as a whole, meticulously need to monitor and adapt to the fluctuating demand, ensuring that it remains robust and inclusive for a diverse range of travellers.

What is in the pipeline for Etihad the coming year? 

With a fleet of 82 aircraft, we have announced the highly anticipated return of the A380 this year. This addition will provide additional capacity to destinations such as London Heathrow (LHR) and New York (JFK) which, in turn, will enhance our connectivity to various parts of India.

Etihad is reinforcing its network, expanding routes, and optimising its fleet. We are boosting capacity to international locations and introducing destinations, including Nice on the Cote d’Azur.

Are you exploring any partnerships to expand your connectivity into India?

Apart fromEtihad’s own network, we are supported by additional capacity and frequencies through our joint venture Air Arabia Abu Dhabi. Through this joint venture we’re able to expand Etihad’s footprint in India to connect more Indian travellers, particularly from regional and smaller gateways to Abu Dhabi and Etihad’s global network. Between Etihad and Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, we are currently operating 232 weekly flights to 10 gateways across India. 

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(Published 21 December 2023, 22:24 IST)

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