Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad Airways has announced plans to launch scheduled flights to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
The service, set to be launched from March 2, 2018, will be operated three times per week – on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
A 136-seat Airbus A320 will fly the route, with 16 seats in business class and 120 in economy.
Flight EY297 will depart from Abu Dhabi at 10.10am, landing in Baku at 1.15pm. The return flight EY298 will leave from the Azerbaijani capital at 4.30pm and land in the UAE capital at 7.25pm.
The new route is being introduced to capitalise on the strong and growing demand for flights between the UAE and Azerbaijan, Etihad said in a statement.
Azerbaijan introduced a visa waiver programme for UAE nationals in November 2015 and expanded it to other GCC nations in early 2016.
During the first nine months of 2016, 1.7 million foreign tourists visited Azerbaijan. The number of visitors from the UAE and GCC increased 30 times – as compared to the same nine-month period in 2015, on the back of the easing of visa restrictions.
Currently, two UAE airlines – flydubai and Air Arabia – operate direct flights between the two countries.
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways CEO said: “Based on the growth witnessed in recent months from the UAE and neighbouring Gulf countries to Azerbaijan, we are confident that the new route will boost traffic from the UAE, and in turn we look forward to welcoming Azerbaijanis on our flights to Abu Dhabi and beyond.”
He added: “The creation of the first ever air corridor linking the two capital cities demonstrates the importance of strengthening business, tourism and cultural ties between the UAE and Azerbaijan.”
Earlier this year, the UAE-Azerbaijan Joint Economic Committee said both countries were to focus on nine key areas for bilateral cooperation, including air transport, tourism, communications, environment, water, agriculture, renewable energy, modern technology and industry.
Non-oil trade between the two countries reached over $605m in 2015, increasing by $228m during the first nine months of 2016.