Etihad eyes more flights between UAE, PH
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, hopes to increase the number of flights to the Philippines to three daily services from the current two, on the back of a strengthening local economy.
“We really appreciate the support we have in this country, and we’re here for the long [haul]. We’d like to go to three flights a day. It’s a huge market, although it’s not [much of an] outbound market. It’s very much of an inbound leisure market,” noted Etihad Airways president and CEO James Hogan.
Hogan, who is in the country to mark the airline’s 10th anniversary and its seventh year of service in the Philippines, revealed that the company now has an average seat factor of 86 percent at two flights daily, and is often fully booked during peak season.
“From a modest start of four weekly A330-200 flights in 2006, Etihad Airways now operates twice daily services to Manila [from Abu Dhabi] with a larger Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. That’s more than threefold growth in just seven years,” Hogan explained. “Over the same period, we have carried more than 2.3 million passengers, making the Philippine route one of the strongest performers in our network.”
Hogan believes that there is enough demand to add a third flight, “but the issues with regard to congestion at the Manila airport and issues on bilateral agreements … that will need planning.”
The plan to increase flights between Manila and Dubai means that Etihad will need to revisit its code-share agreement with Philippine Airlines (PAL).
Asked about PAL’s plan to fly directly to Europe, Hogan said it would be something Etihad would welcome since more players would help stimulate airline passenger traffic.
PAL’s plan, he added, is not expected to affect the codeshare agreement between the two airlines.
“At the end of the day, it’s about how the flights line up and connect. I believe we can complement each other,” Hogan said.
Also, Etihad expects a growth in its cargo division in the country.
“In addition to stimulating overseas business and leisure travel, the health of the Philippine economy is underpinning the growth we are seeing in the freight division—Etihad Cargo. Total trade between the UAE and the Philippines reached $2.16 billion last year, creating significant opportunities for belly-hold cargo transportation,” Hogan said.
From its hub at the Abu Dhabi International Airport, Etihad Airways offers flights to 94 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas, with a fleet of 80 Airbus and Boeing aircraft.—Amy R. Remo
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