Etihad Airways and its equity partner Jet Airways will add three new cities and an extra 28 flights a week in India from next year.
The temple town of Tiruchirappalli in the southern state of Tamil Nadu is to be the first addition, from February 1. Next up in the second half of the year are Kannur in Kerala and Chandigarh, the twin capital of Punjab and Haryana states in the country’s north.
Flights to all three destinations are to be operated by Jet.
The partners are also increasing frequencies to several cities where they said demand has risen. Etihad will add a fourth daily flight to Kozhikode, while doubling frequencies to Delhi and Ahmedabad.
Etihad currently operates 175 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and 11 Indian cities.
Together, Etihad and Jet offer 252 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and 15 cities in India.
The newly announced flights will bring these totals to 18 Indian cities and 280 flights a week.
James Hogan, Etihad Aviation Group’s president and chief executive, said that “Jet Airways is Etihad Airways’ leading equity partner in terms of revenue and passenger contribution”.
Last year, Etihad and Jet together carried a record 3.3 million passengers between Abu Dhabi and India, up 63 per cent from 2 million in 2014. The partners together account for the biggest share of passenger traffic to and from the subcontinent.
India has been Abu Dhabi’s top source market for tourists since 2013. According to figures from the Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), hotel stays by visitors from India nearly doubled from 80,000 in the first half of 2013 to 152,423 in the first half of this year.
Figures from Abu Dhabi International Airport also support that growth. Last month, India was the airport’s top destination by country. Passenger traffic to India grew 10 per cent year on year, accounting for 355,328 travellers from a total of 2.1 million for the month.
This month, Saif Ghobash, director general of TCA Abu Dhabi, told more than 600 travel agents from India that he was looking to promote Abu Dhabi as a “convenient short-break choice, a luxury wedding celebration destination and a world-class meeting and convention venue”.
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