Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has launched daily flights to Rome and Perth starting this week, the airline said in a statement.
The carrier’s daily service to Rome will be operated using an A330-200 aircraft and will offer convenient links to other destinations across the Gulf, Indian subcontinent, Africa, Asia and Australia.
The new route also connects Etihad to European cities such as Belgrade, Bolzano, Tirana and Zagreb through flights operated by the airline’s equity partners Air Serbia and Etihad Regional. Etihad also has a codeshare with Italian carrier Alitalia that connects the airline to many European cities.
“Italy is a very important market for Etihad Airways and we are delighted to establish a second gateway here, after Milan Malpensa,” said James Hogan, president and chief executive officer.
“Demand from business and leisure travellers has been incredibly strong on this new route, strengthened by the convenient onward connections we offer in both directions, either with Etihad Airways’ own flights or through our extensive network of codeshare and alliance partners.”
Etihad is also looking to boost passenger numbers from Australia with Perth becoming the airline’s fourth destination in the country following Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
The new daily flights bring the total number of weekly services the airline offers between Australia and Abu Dhabi to 35, the statement said.
Hogan said that Perth was a strategically important addition to Etihad’s Australian and global network.
“Abu Dhabi and Perth are each popular business travel and holiday destinations – attracting 2.8 million and 7.3 million visitors respectively in 2013 – and we are already seeing a strong commercial response to the new route from travellers in the UAE and Western Australia,” he said.
Western Australia is also the largest contributor to trade between the UAE and Australia, accounting for 57 per cent of the $A6.4 billion total in 2013, he explained.
“With two-way trade between the UAE and Western Australia growing at an annual rate of between 25 to 30 per cent in recent years we are forecasting strong demand for our cargo business.”
Etihad’s partnership with Virgin Australia allows the airline to operate codeshare flights to 13 other regional airports across Western Australia, he added.
The Gulf airline also announced on Thursday that it has expanded its codeshare agreement with Air Malta.
As per the deal, Air Malta will place its code on the newly launched Abu Dhabi-Rome route while Etihad will place its code on Air Malta’s non-stop services between Malta and Rome. Meanwhile, Air Malta will also place its code on all Etihad flights from Australia to Abu Dhabi, the statement said.