Eithad Airways chief executive James Hogan says there should be no trouble filling the Airbus A380 when the airline begins flying the double-decker superjumbo to Australia in 2015.
In Sydney to officially open Etihad’s premium lounge at Kingsford-Smith airport, Hogan says the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s alliance partners in Europe, as well as the recently finalised tie-up with Jet Airways in India, would provide the additional feed to support the extra capacity.
“If you think of what we are doing with Air France, KLM, AirBerlin and ourselves we have got the strongest network coming down from Europe into South-East Asia/Australasia,” Hogan told reporters on Wednesday.
“I think what we provide over Abu Dhabi, outbound and inbound, it is just a great crossroad and distribution.”
Hogan said Etihad’s investment in India’s Jet Airways would tap into the India-Australia market via the Abu Dhabi hub, particularly from smaller secondary cities where it may be more convenient to travel via Abu Dhabi rather than Mumbai or Delhi.
“What we are doing with India that we will also be able to do over Abu Dhabi is stimulate more business coming down out of India,” Hogan said.
Hogan said Etihad’s load factors were already among the highest out of any airline operating out of Sydney all year round.
The new Sydney lounge, which has been operational since March but officially opened on Wednesday, sits over two levels near Gate 51 at Pier C of the international terminal.
Hogan said the Sydney lounge, as well as one in Melbourne slated to open during the first half of 2015, we’re designed with the upcoming A380 operations in mind.
“Certainly if we need to put some more chairs in here there’s room to do it,” he said.
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Etihad recently increased its stake in Virgin Australia to 21.24 per cent through the conversion of a cash-settled equity swap.
The airline is the third-largest shareholder in Virgin Australia, behind Air New Zealand at 24.46 per cent and Singapore Airlines at 22.17 per cent.
Although the airline had Foreign Investment Review Board approval to increase the stake to 22.9 per cent, Hogan said there were no plans to do so at the moment.
“We have what we need in regard to as an investor,” Hogan said.
Hogan said he will take his seat on the Virgin Australia board next month.
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