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Etihad to add flights to India as coronavirus outbreak leaves spare capacity

Etihad to add flights to India as coronavirus outbreak leaves spare capacity

Etihad to add flights to India as coronavirus outbreak leaves spare capacity
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By Anu Sharma  Feb 14, 2020 6:53:06 AM IST (Published)

Etihad has started adding more flights from India as it looks to utilise the capacity which is lying idle due to temporary suspension of most of its operations to China due to coronavirus outbreak.

Etihad has started adding more flights from India as it looks to utilise the capacity which is lying idle due to temporary suspension of most of its operations to China due to coronavirus outbreak.

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For now, the airline is increasing the frequency of flights from existing points of network like Trivandrum on a sporadic basis but has decided to add a second frequency to Trivandrum and a third frequency to Chennai for the entire month of May as it looks for "short-term" re-allocation of spare capacity.
"It is a fluid situation and changing every day. We have suspended some operations but we are still operating to Beijing. We are still seeing where we can operate those assets in short term," a senior executive at Etihad said.
While the airline hopes that the situation which has arisen due to the outbreak of deadly coronavirus be resolved soon, it may look at re-allocating some of the spare capacity on a long-term basis, officials said.
"We are not completely dependent on China. We have opportunities in Saudi Arabia, India, North America among others," a senior executive said.
The airline provides direct connectivity to Abu Dhabi from 10 Indian cities, namely Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum.
"These additional services will be operated by Etihad Airways A320 and will add 158 seats to each route. As a result of these seasonal changes, Etihad Airways will operate 21 weekly flights to and from Chennai, and 14 weekly flights to and from Thiruvananthapuram during this period," the airline said. The airline will also replace a narrow-body with a wide-body on one of the flights from Chennai.
The airline, which has completed 15 years in India, is confident that it will be able to offer a better service to passengers travelling to the US with its pre-clearance immigration facility at Abu Dhabi airport terminal.
"After you have cleared customs and immigration for the US at Abu Dhabi airport, there is no need for further checks when you arrive in the US. You can even check your baggage through to your final destination in the US," the airline added.
Despite suffering a blow in the form of shutdown of Jet Airways, in which it had 24 percent stake, Etihad continues to be bullish about India. Interestingly, the airline claimed that it has not seen "any reduction" in passenger traffic from India even after the collapse of Jet Airways, which used to source traffic from tier-2 and tier-3 cities for Etihad.
"We are seeing a big improvement in terms of yields. Happy with what we are operating. Have not seen any reduction in passengers after Jet Airways (shutdown)...one or two (destinations) where we will explore opportunity. Might see some tweaking of network," Daniel Barranger, senior vice president, global sales at Etihad said.
With a fleet of 101 aircraft, Etihad operates to 84 destinations and in India, it flies 161 flights per week.
"India is an important market for Etihad. It is the second-largest market for Etihad after the home market. We are continuously assessing our network, looking at opportunities to find ways to grow footprint in India. India is crucial to Etihad's success," Neerja Bhatia, Etihad Airways' Vice President, Indian sub-continent said.
The airline, which faced financial losses due to investment in airlines like Air Berlin and Alitalia, said that it is "halfway through its transformation programme" and that there are no long-term concerns and it will continue to invest in the product.
The airline said that it is also making efforts to offer more facilities to economy class passengers.
"Recently refurbished aircraft, there is more legroom and multiple options to economy class. Also providing nanny service for families travelling with kids to economy class passengers as well and providing complimentary 2 nights free stay to all guests, including economy, who are travelling beyond Abu Dhabi," Bhatia added.
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