Etihad Airways announced a ‘step-change in aviation,’ with the launch of its first branded regional operation, after taking a 33.3% stake in Swiss regional Darwin Airline.  Following completion of the investment, which is subject to regulatory approval, Darwin Airline will rebrand its operations to Etihad Regional and align its network to connect passengers from secondary European markets onto the main networks of Etihad Airways and its equity alliance partners.

Etihad Airways is launching daily staring June 1, 2014 from Abu Dhabi to Zurich, which will become one of Darwin Airline’s main operating hubs.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said:  “This is a step-change for Etihad Airways.  With our new partner Darwin Airline, we are creating a unique approach to network development for global airlines. European travellers will now be able to connect from a far, far wider range of European towns and cities on Etihad-branded aircraft, through Abu Dhabi to our destinations worldwide. We are also linking the new Etihad Regional network into the key hubs of our equity alliance partners, bringing benefits to the customers of airberlin and Serbia. This is not just a great new offer for European travellers. It is also great news for Darwin Airline, which will see increased investment, greater sales and marketing opportunities, and the chance to benefit from Etihad Airways’ global network.”

Mr Hogan said the new approach could be extended to other markets over time. “This new model is one that can bring the Etihad badge of quality to air travellers around the world,” he said.  “In just a decade, we have established the Etihad brand as one of the most recognised and most highly regarded in aviation.  This model offers a new direction for that brand in future.”

Mr. Hogan’s alliance model is proven to be very successful. By buying strategic stakes all over the EU, Etihad has created partners across the region.  This has enabled the airline to develop a feed and network like no other.  Etihad now has unfettered access across the region – easily the equivalent of any EU-based airline.  If, as Mr. Hogan suggests, they plan to roll this model out elsewhere, we expect to see the Etihad alliance become a more powerful.  Unlike the other , the Etihad alliance is based on equity.  Real money has changed hands and with it control and common standards.  Not suggestions and guidelines.

The Etihad model may become the one alliance that offers customers a known and predictable standard from origin to destination and back. Given the mercurial nature of air travel, this may become a distinct advantage.

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