UAE national carrier Etihad Airways unveiled its first branded regional airline operation–Etihad Regional–at the Dubai Airshow yesterday. Etihad is launching the regional operation after acquiring a 33.3-percent stake in Swiss carrier Darwin Airline.
Darwin is based in Lugano, Switzerland, with a major hub in Geneva. It currently offers scheduled flights to 21 destinations in Europe using 10 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprops. Following the closing of Etihad’s minority investment, which is subject to regulatory approval, Darwin will rebrand its operations as Etihad Regional and align its network to connect passengers from secondary European markets to the main networks of Etihad and its alliance partners Air Berlin and Air Serbia.
The new Etihad Regional logo will be displayed on each side of the fuselage of Darwin’s aircraft; the rear of the airplanes will carry the words “Operated by Darwin Airline,” the company’s present logo and the Swiss flag.
“This is a step-change for Etihad Airways,” said president and CEO James Hogan. “With our new partner, Darwin Airline, we are creating a unique approach to network development for global airlines. European travelers will now be able to connect from a far wider range of European towns and cities on Etihad-branded aircraft, through Abu Dhabi to our destinations worldwide.” Hogan said the new approach could be extended to other markets over time.
Etihad, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary at Dubai 2013, also announced that it planned to launch daily services from its Abu Dhabi base to Zurich in June using an Airbus A330-300. Zurich will be Etihad’s second Swiss destination after Geneva.
Through Zurich, the daily flight will connect with the Etihad Regional route network, and provide connections to eight new destinations: Leipzig, Florence, Graz, Linz, Lyon, Turin and Verona, plus new domestic service to Geneva.
By mid-2014, Darwin will add 21 new routes and 18 new destinations. Its network will then include six European gateways served by Etihad: Geneva, Amsterdam, Paris, Dusseldorf, Belgrade and Zurich.