Etihad is trying to make the most of the bilateral pact signed between India and Abu Dhabi that allows it to expand the current allocation of 13,600 seats on flights between the two countries to a whopping 50,000. In a statement made by the airline, it stated its intention to use a wide-body Airbus A340-600 aircraft on one of the two daily flights to Mumbai and the wide-body A330-200 aircraft on one of the two daily flights to Delhi. Not only that ,the airline will also operate a larger aircraft which can seat 174 passengers instead of the 136-seater deployed currently on its daily flight to Chennai.
This capacity increase is going to be in addition to the Jet Airways flights that will now be using Abu Dhabi as the hub. This is going to be a tremendous boost for Etihad as it will now be able to tap more deeply into more than 70% of the western bound Indian international traffic by using its Abu Dhabi hub and thereby getting a leg up in its competition against other Middle Eastern carriers such as Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Even though the Jet Airways – Etihad deal is mired in the legal tangle, this boost in the seat numbers is surely going to give Etihad a convenient way to side step the restrictions on flying in the big birds like Airbus A380 into India. What remains to be seen is what kind of strategy will the other carriers adopt in order to retain the flyers. Whatever it maybe it seems to be that the worst sufferer in this case will be the ailing Air India which will end up losing more revenue on its lucrative Gulf routes which will leave it more in the red.