Etihad Airways announces India expansion plans

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Chennai, Aug 14: The Abu Dhabi-headquartered Etihad Airways will soon add two more Indian destinations in its fleet in the early part of next year. Announcing the India expansion plans by operating direct flights from Chennai and Kozhikode, company CEO James Hogan told reporters here that the airways has got permission from the Indian Government to connect two more destinations Jaipur and Kolkata.

''After working out the logistics we will announce the exact dates of the launch...It will probably be in the early part of next year,'' he added. Once connected to Kolkata and Jaipur, Etihad would have doubled its Indian destinations to eight, ever since it commenced services to Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi last year, before adding New Delhi and the commercial capital of Mumbai.

''We have started operating flights from Chennai and Kozhikode from August one this year and the inbound passenger load factor was about 80 to 85 per cent,'' Mr Hogan said.

To a question, he said Etihad would be opening new routes across India in the near future after getting traffic rights to operate flights from Abu Dhabi to Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

On India's contribution to its total revenue, Mr Hogan parried the question and said, ''it's an important and significant contribution. We are not big players in India. Once we establish our presence, we will able to put some numbers, perhaps after 24 months.'' Talking about Etihad's fleet strength, Mr Hogan said it would go up to 40 aircraft from the present 37 by the end of this year. ''We have placed orders for 100 aircraft during the Paris Aero show last year to the tune of 200 million US dollars, which would be added to the fleet in a phased manner by 2020.'' ''We are planning to have 50 aircraft by the end of 2011,'' he said.

Referring to the agitation by the travel agents condemning the reduction of agents commission by the Airlines from five per cent to zero per cent, Mr Hogan admitted that some sort of Service fee had to be given to the travel agents.

''Since the role of business is changing rapidly, we will be following the steps of National carrier, which sets the pace,'' he said.

UNI

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