Interview with Neerja Bhatia, Etihad Airways

First class routels to Indian skies
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From the cockpit

Etihad Airways,First class routels to Indian skies

Etihad Airways,First class routels to Indian skies

The Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways is busy raising its brand recall, ahead of its acquisition in Jet Airways by launching new flights and announcing first-class products. Neerja Bhatia, Etihad Airways’ General Manager in India outlines the airline’s plans for Indian fliers.

While Etihad Airways may have only cleared the last hurdle to its stake acquisition in Jet Airways, it has already stepped up its India presence – the recent launch of daily flights to Jaipur coupled with an aggressive sales pitch, including a new ad campaign around its first-class product, sponsorship of an IPL team and the launch of Boeing 787 flights to Mumbai by the end of 2014 or early-2015.

The airline recently launched daily flights to Jaipur – the route which is already enjoying consistently high loads. Neerja Bhatia, Etihad Airways’ General Manager in India, said, “The introduction of services to the Pink City is part of Etihad Airways’ commitment to offer increased choice and connectivity between Abu Dhabi and India.”

“Jaipur is also a widely recognised premium tourist destination, attracting leisure and business travellers from around the world. The new daily service will also provide travellers from India with seamless connections to the Gulf region and the Middle East, as well as Africa, Europe, North America, via the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub,” she added. With the launch of the Jaipur route, the total number of Indian cities served by Etihad Airways is 10. Along with Jaipur, other routes include Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kozhikode, Mumbai, New Delhi and Trivandrum.


Travel with luxury in Etihad First Class

Travel with luxury in Etihad First Class

In addition to introducing new destinations in India, Etihad Airways has announced increases to the frequency of its existing services to the country,
having recently tripled the number of seats on the prime Abu Dhabi-Mumbai and Abu Dhabi-New Delhi routes, Neerja said. The airline now operates a second daily flight between Abu Dhabi and New York City providing additional one-stop links to the US for Indian travellers and an easy option for travel from America to India.

“This second Abu Dhabi-New York service is scheduled to connect in both directions with services operated by Etihad Airways and Jet Airways to and from six Indian cities- Mumbai, Delhi, Cochin, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. As well as more flights, Etihad Airways will introduce larger aircraft in some markets,” she added.

The new delivered Airbus A321 aircraft, seating 174 passengers, will be used on all Abu Dhabi-Chennai services and between Abu Dhabi and Cochin from June 2014. This is in addition to the recently announced upgrade of Abu Dhabi to Mumbai with a three class A340-600 and Abu Dhabi to Delhi on an A320-200 aircraft. “Subject to regulatory approvals in a range of countries, Etihad Airways and Jet Airways also plan to codeshare on each other’s flights between Abu Dhabi, India and other markets in the Middle East, North America and Europe,” Neerja informed.

When asked what makes Etihad popular with fliers from India, Neerja replied, “Etihad Airways has achieved global recognition as a leading airline
brand that stands for inspirational customer experience. In 2013, we were awarded the title of World’s Leading Airline for the fifth year in a row. There is no doubt that India is a key market for us and one in which we see significant opportunities for long term growth, not only for travel between the UAE and India, but between India and the world, via Abu Dhabi.”

Travellers from India will also have more opportunities to connect to destinations via Abu Dhabi throughout the Gulf region, Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America, while those flying to India will benefit from additional seats and more convenient travel timings. “Passengers connecting
to the US from India will also benefit from the new US customs and Immigration preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi airport opened earlier this
year. The facility allows passengers to clear US customs and immigration in Abu Dhabi, enabling them to arrive in the US as domestic passengers, significantly reducing preclearance time,” she added.


Jaipur Airport - New destination on Etihad's route

Jaipur Airport – New destination on Etihad’s route

The airline had recently unveiled the new product and service offering on its A380 and B787 aircraft, including The Residence by Etihad, which is the world’s most luxurious living space in the air available only on the Etihad Airways A380 aircraft. The new cabins are the most advanced airline cabins in the industry and allow Etihad Airways to offer products unparalleled in quality and style at competitive prices right across all three cabins. As part of that the Abu Dhabi based airline redefined its cabins and set a remarkable new industry standard with the launch of the First Apartment on the A380 and the First Suite on the B787, the new Business Suites and the new Economy Smart Seats.

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