Etihad Airways is keen to expand its footprint in South America and is in discussions with South American-based carriers about potential commercial partnerships, according to James Hogan, the airline’s president and chief executive officer.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways currently has 38 codeshare partnerships with airlines around the globe, resulting in a combined network of 323 destinations, Etihad says this is more destinations than are offered by any other Middle Eastern airline.
Beyond its own organic growth, codeshare partnerships and equity stakes are a significant and growing part of the airline’s expansion strategy. Etihad Airways holds a 30 per cent stake of Airberlin, 40 per cent of Air Seychelles, 3 per cent of Aer Lingus and 10 per cent of Virgin Australia.
The airline will launch its first route in South America on June 1, 2013, with daily non-stop flights between Abu Dhabi International Airport and São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport.
Etihad Airways says its São Paulo service will also provide seamless connections from Brazil to the airline’s global network, offering connectivity over Abu Dhabi to markets in the Gulf Co-operation Council, the Indian Subcontinent and Asia.
“Brazil is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, now ranking as the sixth largest since overtaking the UK in 2011,” said Hogan, speaking in São Paulo. “Bilateral trade between Brazil and the UAE is valued at nearly US$3 billion annually, with authorities aiming to lift this to $10 billion within five years.”
Hogan added: “There are 25 major Brazilian companies with offices in Abu Dhabi. Mubadala, the development company of the Government of Abu Dhabi, last year signalled its intent to begin investments in Brazil, valued at up to $13 billion. According to the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Brazil trade volumes with the Arab world grew by 28 per cent in 2011 to reach $25 billion. This is forecasted to grow by a further 10 to 15 per cent this year.”
Continued Hogan: “In addition to supporting the growing ties between Brazil and the Middle East, this new route complements Etihad Airways’ recent expansion in North Asia, including the recent introduction of services to Chengdu and Shanghai and the upcoming increase to daily Tokyo services, with connections to Nagoya, from April 2013. With some of the fastest connecting flight times to China and Japan, Brazil’s largest and fifth-largest trade partner, respectively, Etihad Airways is providing vital air links between the world’s major emerging markets.”
Etihad Airways began operations in 2003, and in 2011 carried 8.3 million passengers. From its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Etihad Airways serves 86 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Australia and North America and Asia, including Japan flights.
The airline has a fleet of 67 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and 100 aircraft on order, including 10 Airbus A380 superjumbos, the world’s largest passenger aircraft.