TORONTO — Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, hosted a VIP reception in Toronto last week to celebrate the valued contribution of key partners in enhancing air connections between Canada, the UAE and other markets around the world.
The event was attended by James Mueller, Senior Vice President Sales of Etihad Airways, who was joined by more than 150 high-level guests, including government officials, ambassadors, travel agents and trade partners. Etihad Guest Gold Elite members and representatives from the airline’s codeshare and equity alliance were also present.
Canada is an important market for Etihad Airways, which has carried over 750,000 passengers on the airline’s Toronto route since the service commenced in October 2005, equal to more than 25% of the city’s 2.8 million residents. The popularity of the service has been bolstered by a strong and fast-growing trade relationship between Canada and the UAE.
Transactions between the two countries totalled US$1.6 billion last year, almost 95% of which was generated by Canadian exports to the UAE. The UAE is Canada’s largest merchandise export market in the Middle East and North Africa.
Etihad Airways itself has invested heavily in the Canadian economy, having bought 11 flight training simulators valued at more than US$310 million from Montreal-based manufacturer CAE since 2007. The airline’s single largest order was in July last year, when it signed a contract for seven CAE simulators, with a list price value of US$200 million. The simulators are used to train the Airbus and Boeing pilots of Etihad Airways, as well as partner and customer airlines.
Almost 150 Canadians are also employed by Etihad Airways, half of whom are pilots and cabin crew. In Toronto, the airline has 12 employees, led by the country manager James Harrison.
Addressing last week’s event at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Mueller said: “Canada is a very important market for us, and to Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates. There are approximately 150 Canadian companies in the UAE and more than 40,000 Canadian national residents in the UAE, so demand for travel between our nations is strong.
“As our operations continue to grow in Canada, so does our economic contribution. Etihad Airways’ total expenditure in Canada was US$12.2 million last year, excluding fuel and wages.”
Etihad Airways’ Toronto route was initially operated via Brussels, but has been served directly from Abu Dhabi since June 2007 due to high levels of demand for services between the two cities. A growing number of business and leisure travellers are also selecting Abu Dhabi as a connection point between Canada and destinations in the wider Middle East region, as well as the neighbouring growth markets of India, Africa and the resource-rich states of Central Asia.
Abu Dhabi’s strategic position as a connection point has been strengthened by the convenience of Etihad Airways’ onward services to a growing list of destinations. In addition, the airline has a codeshare agreement with equity partner Jet Airways on daily flights between Toronto and Brussels, and beyond to Mumbai and Delhi, while Air Canada also provides a codeshare on seven connecting routes through Toronto.
Etihad Airways’ partnership with Air Canada was launched in 2013, after the two airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance travel services. From May 1, 2014, the agreement will be enhanced to provide Etihad Airways’ premium passengers with access to Air Canada’s Business Class lounge at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
“We now operate three flights a week between Toronto and Abu Dhabi using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with 40 Pearl Business and 340 Coral Economy seats. Our average load factor, at 83%, reflects the heavy demand from both leisure and business travellers, part of which has been fuelled by our codeshare and equity alliance partners,” Mueller said.
“Etihad Airways is pleased to be offering more connections to and from Toronto, catering to the growing number of passengers who are using Abu Dhabi as a convenient hub between Canada and destinations across the Middle East and surrounding regions. We have already launched flights to Jaipur in India this year, and will commence services to Yerevan in Armenia from July 2. Both of these destinations will connect with our Toronto service, offering even more options to guests in both directions.”