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London calling: Etihad Airways answers

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has launched its first direct flights…

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has launched its first direct flights between Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, and London.

The launch marked the first flights into Europe from the new carrier, and its fifth destination after Amman, Beirut, Colombo and Damascus. Flights to Bangkok launch on April 2, 2004, with the airline targeting as many as 16 destinations by the end of the year.

Dr Ahmed Bin Saif Al Nahyan, chairman of Etihad, led more than 200 officials of both national governments and business leaders at the inauguration of the flight.

He said: It is fitting that Etihad`s first flights into Europe are to London, as there is a longstanding trade relationship between the UK and the UAE. It is also an important step in the continuing economic development of the UAE and its capital of Abu Dhabi.

We will continue to expand our services as we acquire new aircraft and new routes. Etihad`s growth in the last few weeks has been exponential, thanks to the addition of routes into the Indian Sub-continent, Europe, and the Far East, and this growth will continue through the rest of the year.

HE Richard Makepeace, the British Ambassador to the UAE, was present for the launch celebration, and was one of the first dignitaries to fly on the new service. He said: Continuing links between both countries, as well as increased tourism traffic have made this route a natural choice.

From a commercial basis, the ongoing initiatives by the UAE government to encourage tourism in this country have been matched by moves in the commercial sector to develop the infrastructure.

The direct link to London recognises the continuing economic opportunities in the UAE, as well as the increasing contact between business, governments and the peoples of both countries.

Etihad`s London route will commence with five flights a week, but will increase in frequency over the coming months. The flights will operate to and from Heathrow`s Terminal 3, with its easy access to connecting flights and its efficient ground connections to the City.

In addition to its existing fleet of two widebody Airbus 300-200 aircraft, the airline has recently acquired an Airbus 340-300 aircraft.

In other Etihad developments, the airline launches its Bangkok service in early April and routes to Bombay and New Delhi are scheduled to begin by the end of August and December respectively.