Etihad Teams with Belavia to Boost Minsk Connection
United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier Etihad Airways will significantly expand its operations into the Belarusian capital Minsk this month after formalising a new marketing relationship with the CIS country’s national carrier Belavia. The UAE is one of Belarus’ main trading partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council and last year exports from Belarus to the UAE reached US$21 million, 122 per cent up on 2011, and imports from the UAE to Belarus amounted to US$17 million, up over 202 per cent on the previous year.
Etihad Airways started operations to the Belarusian capital in August 2008 and since then has carried 105,000 travellers between the two cities. The airline currently operates three flights per week using a two-class Airbus A319 configured with 16 seats in Pearl Business Class and 90 seats in Coral Economy Class. However, from June 15, 2013 overall weekly capacity and network connectivity will be boosted 130 per cent to 1,484 seats (and 339 weekly connections respectively) as the flight is upgraded to a daily operation.
The direct daily services, combined with a new codeshare agreement, supports the growth in demand from business and leisure travellers, cementing the already strong ties between Belarus and the UAE. “This codeshare agreement will attract more passengers on Belavia and Etihad Airways flights. It is a first step on the way to strengthening cooperation between two national airlines,” said Anatoly Gusarov, General Director, Belavia.
Under the codeshare arrangement, Belavia will offer customers with onward connections to Kiev, Moscow and Saint Petersburg using the ‘EY’ code. Meanwhile, Belavia will place its own ‘B2’ code on Etihad Airways’ onward flights from Abu Dhabi to Ho Chi Minh City, Melbourne and Sydney, subject to regulatory approval. The airlines expect to achieve further codeshare synergies in the coming months, including integration of frequent flyer programs, access to premium lounges for customers of both airlines, and codeshare route expansions.
“As demand continues to grow, as we continue to take delivery of more aircraft, and as we announce our codeshare agreement with Belavia, moving Minsk-Abu Dhabi to a daily return service is a logical next step,” said James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Airways. “The route is an important one in Etihad Airways’ expanding global network, and partnering with Belavia is an important catalyst for further strengthening business and leisure traffic between Abu Dhabi and Belarus, and also to destinations over our combined Abu Dhabi and Minsk hubs.”
In recent times Etihad has made it easier for Belarusian nationals to obtain a UAE visit visa, through the TT Services online visa application centre. In 2012 an estimated 12,000 O&D passengers flew between Minsk and Abu Dhabi. Etihad currently provides the only non-stop link between Belarus and one of the major Gulf hubs with Beirut, Tehran and Tel Aviv the only other destinations to be served in the region directly from Minsk.
The arrangement with Etihad will enable Belavia to meet the increasing demand for connectivity between Belarus and destinations across Asia. The carrier currently operates just a small fleet of regional and short-haul aircraft and serves mainly markets across Europe and the CIS. The HUB reported just last week that the carrier is looking to expand its activities in the European market with new flights to Belgium and Switzerland, while positive discussions with delegates from Tallinn Airport in Estonia and a number of Ukrainian airports took place during the recent Routes Europe forum in Budapest, Hungary, according to Igor Tcherginets, Deputy Director General Marketing & International, Belavia.
The growth into Belarus comes at a time that Etihad is boosting its connectivity within the Middle East with additional services also planned to Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Islamabad, Pakistan and Muscat, Oman from June 15, 2013 as the carrier further strengthens connectivity options via its Abu Dhabi International Airport hub.
Services to Muscat will increase from 20 to 23 weekly flights, better linking the Omani capital with Etihad’s North Asian network and some key world destinations, such as Japan, China and South Korea. Flights to Cairo will increase from the current 18 weekly services to three times a day, leveraging the important point-to-point market with enhanced flow traffic onto Etihad’s global network.
In addition, Etihad is adding four overnight flights per week to its existing double-daily operations to and from Amman, providing seamless connectivity to destinations in South East Asia and Australia. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad, will see flights increase from seven to nine per week, enhancing connectivity over the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub to destinations across the Middle East and Europe.
The Middle East and Indian subcontinent are growing markets for Etihad, as passenger demand, connectivity choice, and frequency enhancements continue to drive business and leisure traffic onto the airline’s expanding global network.
“As we add breadth, depth and scale to the airline’s expanding global route network, Etihad Airways will continue offering its guests significantly improved connection opportunities through our Abu Dhabi home base,” said Kevin Knight, Chief Strategy and Planning Officer, Etihad Airways. “We’re not just improving the quantity of flights, but importantly, also the quality of connections to and from the Middle Eastern and Indian subcontinent capitals, offering seamless connectivity between key strategic cities across Asia, Australia, Europe, the Americas, and the GCC region.”