Etihad Airways plans to launch services to Chengdu in southwest China from December 15, subject to government approval. The airline will connect Chengdu to...

Etihad Airways plans to launch services to Chengdu in southwest China from December 15, subject to government approval.

The airline will connect Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and Etihad Airways’ 69th destination, to its hub and home base in Abu Dhabi with four non-stop round-trips each week. Etihad will operate an Airbus A330-200 in two-class configuration on the route, offering 22 Pearl Business class and 240 Coral Economy class seats.

Etihad Airways’ new Abu Dhabi-Chengdu service would provide the first ever flight link between the United Arab Emirates and Sichuan province, according to James Hogan, the carrier’s chief executive officer.

“The new Chengdu services will connect the UAE with the economic center and transportation and communication hub of China’s booming southwest region,” says Hogan. “This will further stimulate the growth of commerce and trade between the UAE and China, already the UAE’s third largest trading partner.”

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways has 16 Airbus A330-200s in its long-haul fleet, which also includes A330-300s, A340-500s and A340-600s and Boeing 777-300ERs. Etihad Airways' long-haul fleet is set to become a lot bigger, the airline having placed orders for sizable numbers of 777-300ERs, Boeing 787-9s, Airbus A380s and A350-1000s

Adds Hogan: “It will also provide a new, more convenient gateway into southwest China for business and leisure travelers from Europe and the Middle East and a faster, new route to Europe and the Middle East for the rapidly growing Chinese outbound travel market. With the purchasing power of the Chinese consumer rising in synch with annual GDP growth of 7.5 per cent to 2030, the Chinese travel market has enormous latent potential. The new service will position Etihad strongly to grow its services to daily and beyond.”

According to Etihad Airways, a key benefit to travellers of the Abu Dhabi-Chengdu service will be convenient flight arrival and departure times and network connectivity at the airline’s hub.

“The schedule has been designed to provide convenient departure and arrival times for both business and leisure customers and seamless onward connections to Etihad’s extensive network across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa,” says Hogan.

Visiting Chengdu to announce the new route, Hogan met municipal government and airport representatives and discussed opportunities for continuing business and cultural exchange between China and the UAE.

“We will continue to work together to strengthen ties between the UAE and China and help forge strong, new links between the communities at both ends of the route,” Hogan said in Chengdu.

“Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport has been focusing on the construction of infrastructure, the soft environment and consistent improvement of service levels,” noted Li Wei, chairman of Sichuan Airport Group, the operator of Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. The airport is currently China’s 5th largest and its passenger and cargo volumes have almost doubled over the past five years.

Etihad Airways’ flight schedule between Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) and Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) will see flight EY818 departing AUH at 8.25 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and landing at CTU at 7:00 p.m. the same day, local time. In the other direction, flight EY811will leave CTU at 8:15 p.m. and touch down at AUH at 12:40 a.m. the following morning, local time.

The city of Chengdu has a population of approximately 11 million people, while Sichuan province has more than 80 million inhabitants. Chengdu is renowned for its giant panda breeding and research base. According to Etihad Airways, foreign tourism growth is reflecting Chengdu’s growing popularity as a travel destination.

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