(MENAFN - Emirates News Agency (WAM)) Etihad Airways has forged a powerhouse group with partner airlines Virgin Australia, airberlin, Air France-KLM, Alitalia, and Czech Airlines which can now offer air travellers unparalleled services between Europe and Australia.
As a result of Etihad Airways' sophisticated codeshare and equity acquisition strategy travellers from France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, as well as a host of other European destinations, can now connect seamlessly to and from Australia over Abu Dhabi.
The major European airlines now have the opportunity to carry passengers into the UAE's capital city and then codeshare with Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia's combined 24 flights a week to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, offering a unique service for the Australian market.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways' President and Chief Executive Officer, said: "We continue to see huge demand for flights to Australia from across Europe's major cities. Through our codeshare strategy and partnerships with airberlin, Air France-KLM, Alitalia and Czech Airlines, we are not only catering for this demand but offering flights from destinations that were previously offline." "The new offering demonstrates the increasing role Abu Dhabi has within global aviation. The hub will continue to experience greater numbers of transit passengers who enjoy short transfer times and then connecting to Australia with the joint Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia offering." He added, "As these codeshare partnerships mature further we will continue to see a shift in the way air travellers fly between Europe and Australia and Abu Dhabi further cement its place as a leading global hub." More than 14 million passengers will pass through Abu Dhabi Airport this year, 13 per cent more than in 2011.
Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia have developed a highly successful, multi-tiered partnership that includes code-sharing on flights, joint marketing initiatives and reciprocal earn-and-burn on their respective frequent flier programs.
Virgin Australia began operating three Sydney-Abu Dhabi services each week in February 2011.
John Borghetti, Virgin Australia's Chief Executive Officer, said: "The Middle East is an increasingly popular hub for travellers, with the number of trips from Australia to Europe via the Middle East growing by 40 per cent over the past two years .
"Since we launched our comprehensive alliance with Etihad Airways in early 2011, we have worked together to expand our joint network and deliver new initiatives for the benefit of our customers, including increased baggage allowances and new lounges." He added, "We expect demand for travel via the Middle East to continue to grow and we will work with Etihad Airways to ensure we provide a comprehensive offering." Etihad Airways and Air France-KLM's historic agreement to codeshare on flights across the airlines' networks came into effect on 28 October 2012. The codeshare agreement extended the Abu Dhabi-based carrier's network to 321 destinations.
The wide-ranging codeshare agreement sees Etihad Airways and Air France-KLM offering joint codes on destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.
During the first phase of the agreement, the Air France-KLM group has placed its KL code on Etihad Airways' flights between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, Melbourne. Phase two is expected to see this cooperation greatly enhanced on Etihad Airways' Australia services within the next six months.
Italy's flag carrier, Alitalia, recently announced that direct flights between Rome and Abu Dhabi will commence on 1 December 2012. The new flights will be a codeshare operation with Etihad Airways. Alitalia already has its AZ code on Etihad Airways flights from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne and Sydney.
Czech Airlines has its OK code on Etihad Airways flights between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
airberlin operates flights on a daily basis from Berlin and Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi and from there passengers can connect with flights operated by Etihad Airways to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.