Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways will deploy the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on all its services to China, the airline announced on Wednesday.
The Boeing aircraft will be deployed on Etihad’s daily service to Chengdu from July 1, replacing the Airbus A330-200 currently operating the route.
The 787-9 service to Chengdu will feature 299 seats including 28 business and 271 economy smart seats.
The upgrade of aircraft will also see an increase in belly-hold cargo capacity of four tonnes, a statement said.
Also from 1 July, the airline’s daily service to Shanghai will be upgraded from the 787-9 to the larger 787-10 Dreamliner.
The 787-10 service to Shanghai will be configured with 336 seats – 32 business and 304 economy smart seats. Belly-hold cargo capacity will be increased by two and a half tonnes.
Hong Kong will also be served by a 787-9 Dreamliner from March 31, with the departure of the plane back to Abu Dhabi on April 1.
Once the changes take effect, the airline will fly all 28 weekly services to Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Hong Kong with the Dreamliner aircraft.
Robin Kamark, Etihad Aviation group CCO said: “China is an incredibly important market for Etihad and we have significantly grown our presence there since launching services to Beijing in 2008. Abu Dhabi’s non-oil trade shows that China is among the top-five countries with key trade relations with the emirate.”
Etihad recently celebrated 10 years of direct flights between Abu Dhabi and China. Since 2008, the airline has carried over four and a half million passengers between the two countries.
The airline said it has seen “significant yearly growth” in passenger numbers on its services to and from China, boosted by codeshare agreements with partner airlines and the mutual visa-exemption policy that was implemented between the UAE and China in January 2018.
Over one million Chinese tourists are expected to have visited the UAE in 2018, following the new visa rules.