Etihad bets on Airbus A350 to boost Indian demand
Etihad Airways continues to view India as an important market and is betting on the Airbus A350 jumbo jet to drive demand from the Indian market, said Vice President Indian Subcontinent, Etihad Airways- Neerja Bhatia. CNBC-TV18 in a recent interview.
“We have a lot of history in terms of India-UAE relations. The proximity of the UAE to India is also beneficial. There is a huge Indian diaspora living in the UAE, which is t is a home for all Indians who work and live there…India is a very important market for us,” Bhatia said.
India’s demand outlook is also strong thanks to its growing economy, rising middle-class incomes, student and corporate traffic as well as people traveling to visit friends and family. parents in addition to leisure travel, Bhatia added.
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The airline has taken initiatives over the past two years of the pandemic to increase efficiency and is now ready to operate a full schedule from India. The airline operates nearly two flights a day from Delhi and Mumbai each, 10 flights a week from Hyderabad, nine flights a week from Bangalore and three times a week from Trivandrum among flight operations from Kochi and Chennai as well.
“We are increasing our capacity and taking a pragmatic approach to network planning, we are becoming agile to respond to all opportunities and demands,” Bhatia added.
The airline is also betting on its newly inducted Airbus A350-1000 to boost demand from India. The A350 has 44 business studios and 327 economy class seats.
The Airbus A350 powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB offers 25% lower fuel burn and CO2 emissions than previous-generation twin-aisle aircraft. This fits with the airline’s focus on the environment, Bhatia said, adding that the airline has also launched an eco-friendly loyalty program.
In keeping with its focus on sustainability, the airline also recently unveiled its new economy class upholstery and tableware, with sustainability and improving the passenger experience as the primary goals. This will be launched on board during the fourth quarter of the year.
Etihad recorded a loss of $476 million for 2021, compared to a loss of $1.70 billion in 2020. The airline carried 3.5 million passengers in 2021, with an average load factor of 39.6 %. Passenger numbers doubled in the second half of the year, reaching 70.1% in December as travel demand peaked during the winter holiday period.
While demand has increased globally for airlines with a spike in leisure and business traffic, the current challenges for the aviation sector worldwide are rising fuel prices, which has been on the rise since the Russa-Ukraine war. It has also forced airlines to re-route their flights, leading to increased flight time and costs.
“The biggest issue is the price of ATF, with divergent routes leading to higher costs,” Bhatia added.