Etihad Airways’ CEO James Hogan said that the US remains a largely untapped market for the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, and that he expects its recently launched Chicago service to be an important driver of Etihad’s future growth.
Hogan was addressing an audience of civic, government and business leaders, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, at a gathering in the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago, where Etihad was celebrating the start of non-stop services between Chicago and Abu Dhabi, which commenced in September.
Chicago and Abu Dhabi have a growing relationship, he said, explaining how Etihad’s new service will bring significant economic benefits to America’s third largest city.
“It is the first direct air route between Chicago and the Arabian Gulf. Abu Dhabi sits at the heart of the Arab world, as Chicago sits in America’s heartland. Chicago is the third largest US market for air travel to the Middle East and GCC, after New York and Washington D.C. Moreover, within Illinois there is an Arab-American population of nearly quarter of a million immigrants from across the Middle East.
“But we do not plan to use this service just to bring travelers from Chicago and the American Midwest to Abu Dhabi and the Middle East. Using our hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport, we will bring thousands of visitors from the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and Asia to Chicago, benefiting the local economy and helping to create good jobs.”
Mr. Hogan stressed the increasing economic ties and business links between the UAE and the US, including that the UAE – America’s largest export market in the Arab world – generated more than US $11 billion in sales last year, including Boeing aircraft and GE engines. He highlighted the diverse range of 750-plus US companies operating in the UAE, as well as the significant recent investments made by UAE interests in US companies, including Citibank, AMD, General Electric and MGM.
Hogan also paid tribute to the increasing contribution being made by US institutions to the delivery of high quality educational and health care services in the UAE. He explained how such partnerships will bring Etihad real and tangible benefits: “As the UAE and US continue to depend on each other for long-term success, we expect the rate of bilateral business and partnerships to continue to expand, creating more demand for travel between the two nations.”
He also explained how Etihad’s presence in the US market has been strengthened by a new code-share agreement with American Airlines. The arrangement extends the two airlines’ global networks by providing easy access between Abu Dhabi and key cities in the US including Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.
He continued: “While many Etihad passengers will visit the great city of Chicago, those who want to travel to other parts of the US will be able to connect through O’Hare with our code-share partner American Airlines, which operates hundreds of flights between Chicago and cities throughout North America and beyond, some of which now carry the “EY” code of Etihad.”
Etihad began its Chicago service on September 2, 2009. Now operated three days a week, it will increase to six per week on November 1 and to daily in January 2010. Etihad has served New York (JFK) daily since October 2006 and Toronto thrice weekly since October 2005.
In 2009, Etihad has begun service to Melbourne, Istanbul, Athens, Larnaca, Astana, Cape Town and Chicago, with Hyderabad (India) to begin in November, and Tokyo in March 2010. Etihad currently serves 56 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. Its expansion has been made possible by the delivery of 11 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft this year, increasing the size of the fleet to 52 by the end of the December, with an average age under three years.