Pending Jet Air stake purchase, Etihad to expand Indian ops

Etihad Airways is expanding operations in India with more flights and wide-bodied jets, building on its deal with Jet Airways as it eyes growth in Asia's third-largest economy, the Abu Dhabi-based airline said today.

Etihad, which is in a deal to buy a 24-per cent stake in Jet Air that has been all but finalised, announced a threefold increase in seats on the prime Abu Dhabi to Mumbai and New Delhi routes from November.

Etihad also intends to codeshare on a wide range of flights operated within India by Jet Airways.

"India is one of the world's fastest-growing destinations, and a key market in the growth strategy of Etihad Airways," president and chief executive James Hogan said in a statement from Abu Dhabi.

"Following the recent signing of a new air services agreement between India and the UAE, we now have the opportunity to add significant capacity between the two countries."

The India-UAE agreement finalised earlier this month allows both countries' airlines to add 36,670 seats per week over three years to the current entitlement of 13,600 seats.

Etihad is fully-owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

By the end of the year, Etihad will operate twice-daily flights using wide-bodied aircraft on the Abu Dhabi-Mumbai and Abu Dhabi-New Delhi routes, compared with a daily flight currently. It also plans to upgrade Abu Dhabi-Chennai flights.

The Jet-Etihad accord had been criticised by opposition politicians who say it favours Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, which in April entered into the stake purchase deal.

Etihad and Jet are yet to close the deal. Pending final approvals, Etihad said earlier this month, it expected the deal to be cleared by Indian authorities "imminently".