Etihad Finds its Wings
Flyers from Los Angeles trying to wend their way to the Middle East can add Etihad Airways to the short list of airlines flying non-stop to the Gulf. Whether heading to this oil-rich area for leisure or for business, Etihad Airways, flag carrier for the United Arab Emirates out of Abu Dhabi, will be offering daily Boeing 777-200LR service from LAX starting in June.
Etihad’s service from the U.S. West Coast can be added to its roster of cities that offer Etihad flights, namely New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and Toronto and, according to CEO James Hogan, there is plenty of room to grow.
Smoothing the way for travelers flying between the U.S. and the UAE will be U.S. to station Customs and Border Protection agents who will be able to screenU.S.-bound passengers in Abu Dhabi before they depart, and thus eliminating those requirements on the other end. (Some similar practices exist between the U.S. and Canada, Ireland, and some Caribbean islands are already in place and have helped increase air traffic on those routes).
Currently, flyers looking for non-stop and higher end flight service to the UAE from LA and several other U.S. cities tend to use Emirates to Dubai. The new daily Etihad service will carry 237 passengers with eight first class suites, 20 business class flatbed seats, and 189 economy seats. The schedule calls for a Los Angeles departure at 4:15 pm with a 7:35 pm arrival in Abu Dhabi on the following day. A return flight leaves Abu Dhabi at 8:45 am and arrives at LAX at 2:15 pm the same day.
“There is enough room for two carriers in this market and, as Abu Dhabi is three hours from the India subcontinent of 14 million international travelers, it’s clear that the routes from Los Angeles can help fill this demand,” said James Hogan in a recent interview in Los Angeles.
Hogan joined Etihad, which had ambitions of turning its young regional airline into a global powerhouse, in 2006 following tenure with Gulf Air that took the perennial money-losing operation into profit in just four years. When Hogan took over as CEO of Etihad Airways, the carrier flew 1.5 million passengers per year and was barely known outside of the Gulf. That figure has now risen to more than ten million with a series of routes, partnerships and stake holdings that now have Etihad flying in plane or name to all corners of the globe.
Etihad’s competitors – once Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France — are now mostly Emirates and Qatar airways, also deep pocketed and offering similar service and luxury on their flights. The decade-old airline seems ripe for the competition, however, offering 2- to 4-class service on its fleet of mostly 777s (Boeing 787 Dreamliners and10 A380s are set for delivery next year to be launched on flights to Abu Dhabi from New York, London, Sydney and Melbourne) and such amenities as onboard childcare (note: the Flying Nanny), world-class flying chefs, a 600-movie entertainment menu and Wi-Fi throughout the flight. Showing a progressive streak, Hogan boasts that Etihad has ten female pilots on staff and a phalanx of female engineers.
Flying now to 94 destinations in 45 countries with reports of $42 million in 2012 (nearly tripled from 2011) speculation has been rife about Etihad’s next moves – or acquisitions. The possibility of Alitalia has been raised, also Poland’s LOT and there has been speculation about Ryan Air, but Hogan is staying tight lipped.
Abu Dhabi is in serious construction mode and, among other projects, building a series of world-class museums (Guggenheim of the Orient, and Abu Dhabi’s own Louvre), a Formula One race track, Ferrari World and what the city hopes will be the largest water park in the world, a Cleveland Clinic with 300 U.S. trained doctors, several beyond-six-star hotels – including the iconic Emirates Place and the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi that has the Formula One race track running through it, universities, convention traffic … “We are anxious to get Americans to Abu Dhabi,” Hogan adds.
Etihad Contact: (877) 690-0767