Switzerland-based regional carrier Etihad Regional was launched in Zurich on January 16.
Established in partnership with UAE national carrier Etihad Airways, the new carrier will be operated by Switzerland’s Darwin Airline. This carrier is headquartered in Lugano and has its largest hub at Geneva International Airport.
The first aircraft to feature Etihad Regional’s branding, a 50-seat Saab 2000, was showcased for the first time on January 16, to international media.
Also showcased were Etihad Regional’s new cabin interiors and crew uniforms at Zurich Airport, alongside an Etihad Airways Airbus A330-300.
Etihad Regional’s new livery will adorn all 10 Darwin Airline aircraft in the fleet by the end of June 2014.
Darwin Airline reportedly is already looking for additional aircraft ‒ possibly new or used ATR 72 turboprop regional airliners ‒ so it can serve the increased network it will be operating as Etihad Regional.
“Etihad Regional will provide a unique opportunity to strengthen vitally important regional networks and connect them to the rapidly expanding global network of Etihad Airways,” said James Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Etihad Airways. “We will choose partners, as we have done with Darwin Airline, which share our passion for delivering an outstanding service to travelers, with greater choice and more convenience.”
Subject to regulatory approval, Etihad Airways will acquire a 33.3 per cent stake in Darwin Airline as part of its equity airline-alliance strategy. Darwin Airline will become the seventh member of the international alliance and Etihad Airways’ fourth partner in Europe.
“Etihad Regional is good news for travelers and for Europe’s regional economies,” said Maurizio Merlo, chief executive officer of Darwin Airline. “We have a clear strategy and firm commitment to build a strong regional airline linking European cities and towns and provincial centers, which also connect to the broader global network of Etihad Airways.”
Merlo added: “What makes Etihad Regional unique is the way Etihad Airways and its equity alliance partners, in particular airberlin and Air Serbia, can also feed passengers into the regional network. We expect that as Etihad Regional expands, it will be able to offer more direct employment locally, and further indirect employment opportunities in connecting regional markets.”
Etihad Regional, operated by Darwin Airline, currently offers year-round flights to 15 destinations in Europe using a fleet of 10 Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft. By mid-2014, this will more than double to 34 destinations.
New non-stop routes for Darwin Airline (as Etihad Regional) will include service to Stuttgart in February. In April it will begin service to Düsseldorf, London City Airport, Berlin, Poznan, Wroclaw, Zurich, Toulouse, Tirana and Zagreb.
In May, Etihad Regional will start serving Belgrade and Turin, while in June it will launch service to Bordeaux, Marseille, Nantes, Linz, Graz, Lyon and Verona.
With these additions, Etihad Regional’s network will include seven European gateways served by Etihad Airways: Geneva, Amsterdam, Paris, Düsseldorf, Belgrade, Zurich (which Etihad Airways will begin serving from Abu Dhabi in June) and Rome (which Etihad Airways will start serving in July).
The Etihad Regional network will connect with Etihad Airways’ strategic partner Airberlin (which is also a member of the oneworld alliance) in Berlin, Düsseldorf and Zurich, providing onward connectivity to destinations in Europe and North America.
Etihad’s partnership with Darwin Airline partnership also makes provision for a phased approach to introducing codeshare agreements, subject to regulatory approval. In phase one Etihad Airways will place its ‘EY’ flight code on 16 routes operated by Darwin Airline.
These include Darwin’s flights from Amsterdam and Paris to Cambridge; from Düsseldorf to London City Airport and Berlin; from Geneva to Lugano, Cambridge, Rome, Stuttgart, Zurich, Valencia, Belgrade and Ibiza; from Rome to Tirana and Geneva; and from Berlin to Poznan and Wroclaw.
Darwin Airline will adopt the Etihad Guest frequent-flyer program, offering full ‘earn and burn’ rights.
Etihad Airways’ minority shareholdings also include 29 per cent of Airberlin, 40 per cent of Air Seychelles, 19.9 per cent of Virgin Australia, 3 per cent of Aer Lingus and 24 per cent of India’s Jet Airways. The airline will acquire 49 per cent of Air Serbia in January 2014.
Together, Etihad Airways and these seven airlines serve nearly 400 unique destinations with a fleet of more than 500 aircraft. In 2013, they carried a combined total of more than 80.5 million passengers – comparable to large airline partnerships in Europe.
Etihad Airways has also recently begun a codesharing agreement with Greece’s Aegean Airlines, which suggests a strategic-partnership deal might be a possibility in the future. Additionally, Darwin’s growing presence at Rome suggests Etihad might potentially be interested in negotiating a strategic partnership with Italy’s troubled flag-carrier Alitalia.
For more information on Darwin Airlines, visit www.darwinairline.com.