Etihad Reduces San Francisco And Boosts Dallas

Filed Under: Etihad

While Etihad’s presence in the US has been steadily growing over the past few years, the airline just announced a couple of US service adjustments that show some interesting trends. Specifically, Etihad will be:

  • Reducing their Abu Dhabi to San Francisco flight from daily to 3x weekly as of February 1, 2017
  • Increasing their Abu Dhabi to Dallas flight from 3x weekly to daily as of February 1, 2017


Logically you’d think there would be more local demand for Etihad’s flight out of San Francisco than their flight out of Dallas. Both routes are being operated by fairly low capacity Boeing 777-200LR aircraft, featuring 225 seats (including eight first class seats and 40 business class seats).

Etihad’s 777 first class

So, what could be causing this change?

Is Air India driving Etihad out of San Francisco?

Many of the passengers the Gulf carriers transport out of the US are connecting to India. It’s a huge market, and they’ve had a pretty captive audience for a while. As of last December Air India launched flights between Delhi and San Francisco, which is their first flight to the US west coast.

Apparently the route has been doing very well, as this flight will soon be operating daily.

Etihad doesn’t have much in the way of connecting traffic in San Francisco, given that their primary US partner is American. Given that they were relying largely on traffic originating in San Francisco, I assume they’ve been losing quite a bit of the Bay Area to India market to Air India.


Is Etihad’s partnership with American a success?

Dallas arguably has too much capacity from the Gulf carriers (at least to meet local demand), as Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar all operate flights to Dallas out of their respective hubs. However, American partners with both Etihad and Qatar, and presumably they provide a good amount of feed onto the airlines’ flights out of Dallas.

As of the middle of last year, American even improved mileage earning for travel on Etihad.

I would speculate that capacity on this route more than doubling isn’t because the demand in Dallas is there, but rather because this route will allow more opportunities for connecting passengers. For as much as the US carriers rag on the Gulf carriers, they still seem to do quite well working together.


Bottom line

It’s interesting to see Etihad reallocate capacity in the US. I imagine Air India’s nonstop flight between San Francisco and Delhi has cut into Etihad’s load factors, while the growth out of Dallas is probably due to their partnership with American.

Are you surprised to see Etihad decrease San Francisco service and increase Dallas service?

  1. Somewhat surprised because the AI nonstop to Delhi is great but connecting to other Indian cities domestically is a terrible experience, especially in Delhi. If I had to connect, 100% of the time it would be outside of India rather than inside.

  2. Dallas/Fort Worth area and San Francisco area population are both around 7 million, with DFW growing faster. Add AA’s presence, and more oil and gas than the west coast and it makes complete sense….

    Emirates also pulled out its a380.

  3. Lucky–what do you think the chances are that United would jump into the fray with a non-stop Polaris flight from SFO-DEL sometime next year? Given that UAL and SQ both offer non-stops to Singapore now, why not Delhi? Seems like United has made SFO their base for their Dreamliner fleet and a non-stop to Delhi would seem like a no-brainer to me given the huge Indo-American community in NorCal as well as business travelers looking to get to/from Silicon Valley in a timely manner.


  4. Recently flew Emirates to DXB out of SFO and crew kept telling me how packed SFO flights are…I was surprised to hear it. They even said rumor has it a second SFO flight could be in the works for EK. I think the Etihad flight suffers from bad timing. Leaves early in the morning…which is good for late afternoon connections in AUH, but is awkward for departing SFO. EK has good brand awareness here, but I don’t know if EY does. Also, there is not much advantage connecting through the gulf from the west coast to get to India, where both TATL and TPAC are viable options. In terms of premium carriers, SQ and CX take a fair share of pax to India as well from here. And there are a myriad of other 1 to 2 stop options.

  5. Much better connections at DFW vs SFO. Definitely.

    But I’d argue there’s quite a bit demand for ME carriers at DFW. Between business travel to the Middle East, DFW to India market, and the general perception of better service on ME carriers, those flights on the 3 ME carriers are in hot demand at DFW.

    Personally, I think there’s lots of room for carrier expansion at DFW.

    Full disclosure: I’m DFW-based so rooting for my home airport.

  6. SFO has a daily EK A380, which is also strong competition for the connecting passengers to India. Honestly, it boggles my mind that there are that many people a day willing to take a 15+ hour flight. For example, how can LAX manage a daily EY, QR, and double daily EK A380 flight? It can’t all be connecting passengers, and some of those connecting to India could easily transfer in Europe or Asia. I’d be so curious to see the data behind these routes statistics.

  7. This is great for connecting to and from AA. I couldn’t find connecting award space from my AUH-JFK flight home earlier this year so I had to buy a ticket. There’s almost always going to be award space to connect from DFW. This is great for those of us connecting via DFW.

  8. UA and SQ’s new non-stop SFO-SIN flights have also opened up more capacity and connection options to India and beyond with nice products, 787-9 and A350 respectively.

  9. As I said before, if AI can get it’s act together and operate daily non-stops from all major hubs with massive Indian populations (EWR, YYZ, and YVR are covered by it’s *A partners UA and AC respectively) and becoming an airline worth flying (not sure I feel that way yet), it will really hurt the ME3.

    – LAX (minor *A feed)
    – BOS (+ university feed)
    – SEA (+ tech feed)
    – DFW
    – IAH
    – IAD (minor *A feed, perhaps not a good location given that suburban MD has more Indians than suburban VA)
    – ATL (perhaps not with DL and 9W’s new tie-up via AMS)

  10. Not a huge fan of the timing of the AUH-DFW flight for connecting traffic. The flights to JFK, SFO and ORD all leave at more convenient time if you have to connect in the US to somewhere else. Which, as you say, is likely a substantial amount of the traffic Etihad carries from DFW. But, it lands at 4:55 pm, leaving you with more limited options than if you were on the ORD flight that lands at 10 am. Sure, the departure time in AUH sucks for those other flights. There are 3 nonstop flights between my city and Dallas. Only 1 of them is even possible if I take the AUH-DFW flight. And that one requires sitting at the airport close to 4 hours.

    I know, I have better options into other cities so I don’t have to take this flight. But, the increase in frequency doesn’t help the biggest problem for connecting traffic at DFW.

  11. Dallas?

    So Ben Tampa and Clearwater and St. Petersburg are all the same? Or for any number of cities in the same region in Germany? It’s amazing you can’t grasp this simple concept. Etihad doesn’t serve Dallas and never has.

  12. My parents are booked in J on the SFO to AUH flight in early March 2017 for Wednesday morning. Do we need to contact Etihad to get them moved to a different day/ flight?

  13. I will never fly Air India and this is a bit unfortunate. Etihad pricing in business is usually the lowest and I am not sure if it will stay the same after this change.

  14. @Mark – Couldn’t agree more. I live here in LA and often park on the bluff just south of the runway and literally scratch my head at where all these pax come from/go to. And every. Single. Day. And not just the 3 ME carriers you accurately mentioned, but then consider all the Asia flights: Cathay’s 4 flights per day to HKG alone, plus all the others! I too, would love to see some route statistics! (Hint hint Lucky …. possible blog post? 🙂 )

  15. Being a regular traveler between US and India, I feel there is a desperate need of good Indian or American metal flying between the two. I don’t like that my direct flight choice is mainly limited to Air India and United, of whose I am not a big fan.
    I believe direct flights between India and US can drive out a lot of Gulf competition along with several European flights, as most of the European flights too are connectors from India to US. If only it was this simple though – thanks to Indian regulations, Trans-Atlantic JVs and Gulf penetration in the two countries. Sad that a decent airline like Jet Airways does not have a single flight into the US and largely depends on its four partners.
    Hopefully, we will get to see more direct flights in the future when technology becomes more efficient and improves the economics. I wonder if Jet will use its B7879s on order for North America?

  16. I believe 7 of top 10 EY AUH-SFO feeders were Indian airports. So it is a good strategy to shore up DFW. AI with 14hr 30min DEL-SFO will have an edge. One point every one ignoring, Chinese carriers are starting non-stops from all over China to west coast. Bottom line Chinese are dumping capacity and lowering prices on ME3. Tough luck.

  17. @Anuj
    Yes, you should contact Etihad as the San Francisco flight will be reduced down to Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

    Completely agreed!! 🙂
    Would love to see the statistics

  18. @Aaron

    I’m from LA but live abroad now, so travel many times a year between Europe and TBIT. It’s incredible seeing the other passengers in the arrivals hall. I’ve seen some pretty strange luggage coming through (boxes and boxes of stuff coming off Asian flights).

    I’m just an aviation geek, so have a limited knowledge on how certain things actually work. Fx, it’s public knowledge how much capacity there is on routes, but airlines do not have to report the actual load factors and statistics on the routes (right?). I think their should be a post on how to read the wikipedia statistics on U.S. airports, because it looks like they’re coming from a .gov and the reports are based on building queries. Looking at LAX, it just doesn’t seem even close to correct, when LAX-PVG has half the amount of passengers as INC when they both have 5 flights a day (I know INC throws in the whale almost exclusively, but still…). Bigger question, it says that LAX-DXB has almost a half a million pax for 2015, when it was only daily on an A380 (until mid way through 2016) with probably 1000 max a day. Who can write something explaining this stuff? I’m so curious.

  19. Statistics: Top 10 Source Markets for Etihad’s AUH – SFO flights (No. of passengers) between Sep 2015 and Aug 2016

    1) Delhi, India = 11,813
    2) Mumbai, India = 9,782
    3) Hyderabad, India = 8,791
    4) Bangalore, India = 8,508
    5) Chennai, India = 5,712
    6) Abu Dhabi, UAE = 3,757
    7) Ahmedabad, India = 3,462
    8) Tehran, Iran = 2,375
    9) Lahore, Pakistan = 2,118
    10) Kochi, India = 1,632

    So just counting the top 10 markets, India’s share is around 86% (49,700 passengers) whereas Abu Dhabi, Lahore and Tehran contribute approx. 6%, 4.2% and 3.8% respectively. Clearly, any competition to Etihad will directly hurt its largest market base for San Francisco. And it probably wouldn’t be wrong to generalize this assumption for most of its and other Gulf carrier’s American markets. Therefore, as I said before, direct flights between US and India can drive out Gulf and European competition from India.


  20. @John

    UA not going to cooperate with AI because LH wouldn’t like it. So UA is shackled to EU JV. Also UA unions won’t allow any joint venture with airlines with low employee cost.

    At some point AI start looking for other partners like B6, AS and SW(assuming new contract permits)

    AI should upgrade cabin interiors and IFE system (or) content.

    Miserable connections in Delhi is a myth spun by travel agents and bloggers. Delhi immigration and customs are better than most advanced countries. AI working diligently to make connections smooth.

  21. Thanks for this update. Just moved my award ticket to DFW which had a much better connection time to my home base. I wouldn’t have known this if you hadn’t posted this info. Thanks a bunch!

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