Etihad Airways launches first A380 service to India
Mohammed Al Bulooki, Etihad Airways vice-president for commercial UAE; inaugural pilots Capt Ramesh Krishna and First Officer Irfan Rizvi; Neerja Bhatia, Etihad Airways vice-president for the Indian Subcontinent; Raveen Pinto, GVK vice-president for aero marketing and other officials at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
Abu Dhabi - Daily scheduled flights features award-winning The Residence suite
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, has introduced Mumbai to its Airbus A380 network with the launch of daily scheduled flights featuring its award-winning The Residence, the world's first three-room suite on a commercial airliner.
Flight EY204 from Abu Dhabi landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai late on Monday on the celebrated occasion of Maharashtra Day, the 56th anniversary of the state's formation. Mumbai becomes the airline's fourth A380 destination following London Heathrow, Sydney and New York, with Melbourne set to join on June 1.
Etihad Airways senior management team led by Mohammed Al Bulooki, vice-president for commercial in the UAE, flew on the inaugural flight, arriving to a traditional lamp-lighting ceremony attended by officials from the airline and Mumbai airport operator GVK. Due to the current water crisis currently gripping the state of Maharashtra, Etihad Airways decided not to proceed with a customary water salute that typically marks the arrival of an airline's first flight to an airport.
The choice of Maharashtra Day to launch the world's largest passenger jet to India reinforced the airline's commitment to the country, to meet an increase in demand for air services and to support growing trade and tourism in India.
With the aircraft upgrade, Etihad Airways is able to offer an all-A380 daily service in both directions between Mumbai and New York JFK International with a seamless connection over Abu Dhabi, along with the unique US customs border protection which enables guests to pre-clear US customs in Abu Dhabi. The service is operated as a codeshare flight with Etihad Airways' strategic Indian partner Jet Airways.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways president and chief executive officer, said: "Etihad Airways is a young, innovative airline, yet a long-time supporter of the buoyant Indian aviation industry, operating to this diverse country since 2004 when Mumbai became the launch pad of our operations here."
"Bringing our flagship product to India with additional seat capacity demonstrates our overwhelming undertaking to one of the world's fastest-growing economies, helping fulfill growing demand and meeting travellers' expectations for superior products and services. Key feeder markets to and from Europe, North America and the Middle East will also benefit greatly from the upgraded service."
"Our commitment to India is unequivocal, having built a robust and successful route network with our own dedicated services and those of our partner Jet Airways which, combined, give us 20 per cent market share, making us the largest contributors of passenger traffic to and from India, bigger than any other international airline."
The two carriers currently operate 254 flights a week from 15 destinations in India to Abu Dhabi and beyond to a wide network of cities across all continents. Both carriers codeshare on each other's services to and from India.
Neerja Bhatia, vice-president for the Indian Subcontinent, added: "We are delighted to showcase our innovative The Residence featuring a living room, shower and bedroom, and our revolutionary First Apartments and Business Studios on the new daily A380 Mumbai flights that give our guests the very best onboard experiences with unmatched luxury and comfort."
"Maharashtra is one of the largest states in India, and its capital Mumbai is a cosmopolitan, dynamic and popular city. Mumbai to New York represents the largest premium travel market out of India, and with the busy holiday season upon us, it is the perfect time to bring our newest product to Mumbai. We look forward to welcoming travellers from Mumbai and surrounding cities as we believe the A380 will appeal to a much wider customer base keen to experience the aircraft and its services to Abu Dhabi and onward connecting points."
Rajeev Jain, chief executive officer of Mumbai International Airport, said: "We at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport are delighted to welcome Etihad Airways' A380 to Mumbai."
"We appreciate that Etihad Airways chose Mumbai, a testimony to their discerning customers who fly from the city. The state-of-the art operational and customer facilities at Terminal 2 and the fly-by-wire A380 will be in good company. I am sure the operations of Etihad Airways' A380 will be a delightful experience for all passengers and lead to robust growth in travel in the days to come."
The inaugural A380 Mumbai operational crew included 22 all-Indian cabin crew and Indian pilots, Capt Ramesh Krishna, from Hyderabad, and first officer Irfan Rizvi, from Mumbai.
Capt Krishna said on arrival: "It's a great honour to fly Etihad Airways' first A380 into India with today's launch serevice to Mumbai. Being Indian and living and working in the UAE, this truly is a day of pride for me, my home country and my adopted country to fly our largest aircraft into India for the first time."
Etihad Airways' A380 features a total capacity of 496 seats - up to two guests in The Residence, nine First Apartments, 70 Business Studios, and 415 economy smart seats.