Etihad, the UAE’s new airline, was formally launched recently with a ceremonial flight from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain.
Commercial operations commenced on November 12 with the first scheduled flight from Abu Dhabi to Beirut.
Initially the new airline will fly three times a week to Beirut followed by flights to Damascus. Later, Etihad plans to operate services to other Middle East countries, the Indian Subcontinent, the Far East as well as to the UK.
“Etihad is being positioned as the airline of the 21st century,” explained Dr Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan, chairman of the new airline. “As our fleet of aircraft grows and our network of destinations expands across the Middle East and beyond, we intend Etihad to be the standard bearer of excellence,” he added.
Etihad will operate two wide-bodied Airbus A330-200s and plans to increase the fleet gradually. The 225-seater A300-200 will be the exclusive choice for the airline’s fleet.
The airline was established in July last year by a decree by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
The new airline was capitalised at Dh500 million in Dh1 million shares all owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.
Etihad is introducing the Gulf’s first premium economy class travel and aiming at the region’s business sector primarily. Maintenance will be served by a partnership with Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Co (Gamco).
The premium economy class will offer a limousine service to and from the airport and to any point in the UAE. A special services team has been established to greet passengers on arrival and enhanced ground services in Abu Dhabi will begin early next year.
Etihad refers to passengers as guests and operates ‘guest zones’ rather than fare classes. The three zones - Diamond, Pearl and Coral - do not correspond directly to first, business and economy classes.
The Diamond zone is luxurious and spacious with 75-inch seat pitch. Pearl zone offers 49-inch pitch and is the first premium economy service offered in the region. The Coral zone has a 32-inch seat pitch and offers superior economy class service. All seats are equipped with personal video screens.
Catering for the new airline will be from the Abu Dhabi Flight Kitchen by top chefs.
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