It’s a bizarre time for aviation in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi Is Getting Two New Low Cost Carriers
Etihad Airways has been struggling financially, and in 2017 the airline began a five year transformation plan. Last I heard, Etihad hopes to be profitable by 2023(!!!), and in the meantime continues to rack up huge losses. Since 2016, the airline has lost over five billion USD.
The airline is government owned, and in the meantime government money is being used to launch two new low cost carriers in Abu Dhabi:
- Sharjah-based Air Arabia and Etihad Airways plan to form a joint venture to create a new low cost carrier based in Abu Dhabi
- Wizz Air plans to plans to launch a new low cost carrier in Abu Dhabi, in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company (ADDH)
Technically these two projects are with separate organizations, but ultimately all of the money for this is coming from the same pockets, which is why this is so confusing.
My guess is that they’re hoping to increase access to Abu Dhabi, though without a doubt new low cost carriers will put even more downward pressure on Etihad Airways’ yields.
Air Arabia’s First Routes
I’ve been curious to see what routes these two airlines plan to launch. While tickets aren’t yet on sale and we haven’t even seen a formal announcement for that matter, @airlineroute notes that Etihad has preliminarily loaded some Air Arabia flights into their schedule.
As of late March 2020, Etihad shows the following destinations for Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, all flown with A320s:
- Abu Dhabi to Almaty 3x weekly (Etihad flew here until October 2016)
- Abu Dhabi to Dhaka 1x daily (Etihad flew here until September 2018)
- Abu Dhabi to Faisalabad 1x daily
- Abu Dhabi to Jaipur (Etihad flew here until February 2018)
- Abu Dhabi to Kiev 3x weekly
- Abu Dhabi to Multan 1x daily
- Abu Dhabi to Peshawar 1x daily (Etihad flew here until December 2014)
- Abu Dhabi to Taif 4x weekly
- Abu Dhabi to Tbilisi 1x daily
- Abu Dhabi to Yanbu 3x weekly
- Abu Dhabi to Yerevan 4x weekly
These flights aren’t yet for sale, though likely will be soon, if flights are to launch in just a few months.
All of these are destinations not currently served by Etihad, and for that matter some of these are destinations that Etihad recently abandoned as part of their restructuring. So at least it’s smart that they’re not duplicating route networks.
It’s going to be interesting to see how these two low cost carriers in Abu Dhabi unfold in the coming months. No matter what, I don’t see this being good news for Etihad.
A single carefully crafted low cost carrier might not be terrible for Etihad, serving destinations that they otherwise can’t fly to. However, to see two Abu Dhabi-backed low cost carriers forming in the market at once is… puzzling.
What do you make of the first routes for Air Arabia Abu Dhabi?