Etihad Airways announced the launch of its first branded regional operation, after taking a 33.3% stake in Swiss carrier Darwin Airline. Following completion of a minority investment, which is subject to regulatory approval, Darwin Airline will rebrand its operations as 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 will also launch daily services on 1 June 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. We are also linking the new Etihad Regional network into the key hubs of our equity alliance partners, bringing benefits to customers of airberlin and Air Serbia.”
Darwin Airline currently offers scheduled flights to 21 destinations in Europe using a fleet of 10 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft. Subject to regulatory approvals, Etihad Airways will invest in Darwin Airline through the acquisition of 33.3% of an enlarged share capital. The investment will give Etihad Airways access to regional markets in Europe, and enable a major expansion of Darwin Airline’s operations.
By mid-2014, Darwin Airline will add 21 new routes and 18 new destinations. Its network will then include six European gateways served by Etihad Airways – Geneva, Amsterdam, Paris, Düsseldorf, Belgrade and, Zurich in June.
Subject to regulatory approval, Etihad Airways, airberlin and Air Serbia will codeshare on Darwin Airline routes, while Darwin Airline will codeshare on Etihad Airways, airberlin and Air Serbia flights from a range of European gateways. Darwin Airline’s expanded network, to be implemented in stages from April 2014, will provide significant new opportunities.