Etihad in talks with Dublin airport about extra weekly flights


ABU DHABI-based airline Etihad is in talks with the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) about expanding its operations in Ireland next year.

Etihad chief executive James Hogan, who is in Ireland this week for the Farmleigh brainstorming event, told The Irish Times that Dublin was in competition with Manchester to get the new flights.

“We are in talks with the airport authority ,” Mr Hogan said. “We’re taking new aircraft at the back end of this year and next, and we’re looking at adding flying into Dublin or Manchester.

“It will be dependent on the charges we can negotiate with the airport operator.”

He said this would involve adding three more flights a week to its schedule from Dublin to bring its frequency to 10 a week.

Etihad offers direct flights to Abu Dhabi and extensive connections from there to Australia, southeast Asia and South Africa.

Etihad, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, began flying from Dublin in 2007, and is currently availing of a five-year DAA incentive scheme for new routes. Its talks with the DAA are understood to include the provision of facilities for its premium and business-class passengers.

Mr Hogan said Etihad had “taken a look” at the new Terminal 2 at Dublin airport, which is due to open in late 2010.

When contacted about the talks, the DAA said: “Etihad is a valued customer at Dublin airport and the DAA is exploring how it might support or increase the Etihad weekly schedule within the parameters of the existing long-haul route incentive scheme.”

Mr Hogan said Dublin was one of its “top performing routes”, achieving an average load factor of about 80 per cent. Yields, however, have declined this year by 15-20 per cent as a result of recessionary pressures.

“Cargo has been pretty good for us too,” Mr Hogan added.

Separately, Etihad is poised to renew its sponsorship of the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship with the GAA, which costs about €1 million annually. Its existing deal expired following the recent All-Ireland final.

“We’re in discussions with them [GAA] right now ... It’s a great deal,” said Mr Hogan.