Etihad Airways will launch its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft commercial service in Mumbai by January 2015 of this year which would include its new products and services for first, business and economy classes, the airline announced on Sunday.
Etihad however had no plans to launch Airbus A-380 aircraft yet on Indian skies and may look at it later if numbers works out in favour, CEO James Hogan told reporters here.
The national airline of the United Arab Emirates's Rs 2,058 crore crore deal to purchase 24% stake in Jet Airways has been facing several issues first from the market regulator SEBI and competition commission of India. Etihad however remains committed to the Indian market considering the huge opportunities for growth, Hogan stressed.
"I cant think of any better person as a partner than Naresh Goyal, he is innovator and leader in the Indian aviation sector. This is first FDI in India, and of course it is going to go through a process and we accept that." He said.
Hogan said that there is as a natural airbridge between Abu Dhabi, Gulf and India. "We now fly 10 cities in India, we just launched services in Jaipur. Over the next 24 months, we will be operating through 26 Indian cities and creating the network reach for Indian market, outbound and inbound."
The Abu-Dhabi based airline currently has highest number of employee from India, majority of them at senior level and in cabin crew. "Largest visitor group to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi was Indian market, so this is a long term strategic market. India is dynamic market with 300 million middle class 40 million people travelling international, which is growing at 10%. we are excited about being much closer to india market ." Hogan said.
On the series of senior level exits at Jet Airways Hogan said that business in general has been facing challenges right across the sector in India. "At the end of the day Mr Goyal and his team are creating a great airline and jet airways is full of competent executives,"
Last month, Jet Airways' acting chief executive officer (CEO) Ravishankar Gopalakrishnan resigned, continuing an exodus of senior executives following the signing of the deal. Since the deal was announced a year ago nearly six senior level executives have left the company which also includes Willy Boulter, Etihad's vice-president (commercial and network planning).
Uber luxury on board
The national airline of the United Arab Emirates also launched one of its most premium and luxury products 'The Residence', a three-room cabin having a living room, separate double bedroom and ensuite shower room and a dedicated butler to service for the uber rich. Hogan equaled this offering with private jets and experience which would be parallel to five star or seven star hotels.
The offering which will be available only in Airbus A380 could be offered at much more competitive rates than private jets and would raise the bar for any other luxurious seating offering across the globe, Hogan claimed. Giving an example he said 'The Residence' ticket from London to Abu Dhabi would cost in the range of $20,000 as against private jets which costs around $100,000-$150,000. Etihad Airways has a total of 10 A380s on firm order. Four A380s will arrive in 2015, three in 2016 and two in 2017.
Etihad also launched other offerings including First Apartment, First Suites, Business Studio, and Economy Smart Seat for A380 and B787 flights. Hogan said all its equity partners will have full access to these new products.
The second largest airline in UAE will start first A380 commercial operations from London Heathrow in December, while second will operate in the same route from first quarter of 2015. "By the end of 2015, Etihad Airways will have five of the type in operation, with plans to also introduce A380 operations to both Sydney and New York JFK," the company said in a statement.
Apart from Mumbai, B787-9 will be deployed in Washington DC and Düsseldorf. The airline has a total of 71 B787s scheduled for delivery between the end of 2014 and 2023, including 41 B787-9s and 30 B787-10s, making it the largest operator of the aircraft type in the world.
The correspondent's visit to Abu Dhabi was hosted by Etihad