Etihad Extends Second-Tier Carrier Grab With Darwin Air Holding

Etihad Airways PJSC continued with its strategy to take stakes in foreign carriers, buying a third of Switzerland’s Darwin Airline SA and re-branding the business as Etihad Regional to help funnel traffic through its hub.

Etihad, the national carrier of Abu Dhabi and the smallest of the three major Middle Eastern airliners, will buy a 33.3 percent stake in the Swiss airline, Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said today at the Dubai Air Show. Etihad in June will start daily non-stops flights to Zurich, from where Darwin will provide connectivity to eight other European cities. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

“European travelers will now be able to connect from a far, far wider range of European towns and cities on Etihad-branded aircraft, through Abu Dhabi to other destinations worldwide,” Hogan told reporters at the Dubai aviation expo.

Hogan’s approach differs from his Middle Eastern competitors, as he extends his reach into other markets through equity alliances that include Air Berlin Plc, Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., Air Seychelles Ltd. and Jet Airways (India) Ltd. Emirates is not part of a global alliance and has a partnership with Qantas Airways Ltd, while Qatar Airways Ltd. has joined the OneWorld code-sharing group.

Etihad already serves Geneva, and the airline would use an Airbus SAS A330-300 on the Zurich route, the company said. Etihad’s stake in Serbia’s largest carrier has also given the company better access into eastern Europe, from where it is pushing more traffic through its new hub in Abu Dhabi.

Hogan was among the most prolific buyers on the first day of the Dubai Air show, ordering both Boeing Co. and Airbus aircraft in transactions valued at more $50 billion when combined. Darwin Air operates a fleet of regional aircraft consisting of 10 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprop models.

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