Etihad Airways' president and chief executive James Hogan recently met Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to identify areas of mutual interest as the Abu Dhabi-based carrier expands operations in the country.
The meeting comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, India's fourth-largest trading partner in terms of trade volume, beginning Sunday.
Hogan, accompanied by Vijay Poonoosamy, the airline's vice president, international and public affairs and Neerja Bhatia, general manager (India), met chief minister Fadnavis at his official residence on Wednesday.
During the meeting the chief minister outlined the priorities of the state, identifying areas of mutual interest and opportunities for Etihad Airways to support the state's economic growth.
The chief minister and Hogan discussed new areas of collaboration between Maharashtra and Etihad Airways, especially in tourism and cargo exports.
Etihad Airways and Jet Airways, in which it has a major share, together operate more than 220 flights between India and Abu Dhabi each week, including five daily flights from Mumbai and a daily flight from Pune.
According to Hogan, Etihad Airways carries more business and leisure travellers into India than it takes out. In 2014 the number of flights to India, purchased in Europe, the GCC, and United States, rose by 65 per cent compared to the previous year, he told the chief minister.
''In the first six months of 2015 Etihad Airways transferred more than 235,000 guests onto Jet Airways' network into India through its codeshare partnership, with Jet Airways providing 182,000 guests onto the Etihad Airways network.''
Etihad Airways was the first foreign airline to invest in an Indian carrier, Jet Airways, under the current FDI policy of India, making a $750-million investment, which included the acquisition of a 24-per cent equity stake in the airline.
Etihad Cargo also carries more than 1,200 tonnes of Indian products and exports to key markets in Europe, US and the Middle East each week and operates a dedicated freighter operation from Mumbai.
In the last five years, Etihad Airways has carried more than five million guests on its services to and from India.
Relations between the UAE and India continue to mature, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the United Arab Emirates on 16 and 17 August.