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High hopes for Etihad
Tuesday, 29 September 2009

ETIHAD Airways’ decision to extend its daily Abu Dhabi/Johannesburg service onwards to Cape Town starting this week will pay dividends in the long run, according to Country Manager Craig Thomas.

Mr. Thomas said that, instead of having an aircraft sit on the ground for eight hours at O.R Tambo International, it made more sense to extend the service onto Cape Town.

He said another reason for expanding Etihad’s South African route network is the demand to link Cape Town to some of the airline’s other destinations, such as Geneva, Moscow, Dublin, Brussels, Milan and Minsk (via Abu Dhabi).

Mr. Thomas also expects the new routing to be utilised by the large South African expatriate population in the Middle East: “Many (of the expat community’s) family and friends are now travelling to the Middle East on holiday instead of Europe and the UK.”

Although Etihad’s Cape Town service is well timed for next year’s FIFA World Cup, Mr. Thomas said it is not directly targeting World Cup passengers, although the event will obviously result in increased passenger traffic.

“Its not just about the World Cup—there has been a very strong demand from our stations in Europe because Cape Town is a strong driver in the tourism market,” he explained. “We assess the overall demand based on historical data and make a decision based on this as well as expected forward demand.”

However, a GDS check done just over a week ago showed a glut of available seats in all classes for the first flight from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi on October 1

Mr. Thomas was upbeat though, and said forward bookings in general “are encouraging”, with approximately half of all inbound passengers who have booked for December disembarking in Cape Town.

He added that the permanent route extension has been well received by the local travel trade.

By : TIR
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