Etihad Airways has acquired a 33.3% stake in
Swiss carrier Darwin Airline.
Following completion of the minority
investment, which is subject to regulatory approval, Darwin
Airline will rebrand its operations as Etihad Regional and align
its network to connect passengers from secondary European markets
onto the main networks of Etihad Airways and its equity alliance
Etihad Airways will also launch daily services
on 1 June 2014 from Abu Dhabi to Zurich, which will become one of
Darwin Airline’s main operating hubs.
James Hogan, Etihad
Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “This is a
step-change for Etihad Airways. With our new partner Darwin
Airline, we are creating a unique approach to network development
for global airlines. European travellers 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 our
destinations worldwide. We are also linking the new Etihad
Regional network into the key hubs of our equity alliance
partners, bringing benefits to the customers of airberlin and Air
Serbia. This is not just a great new offer for European
travellers. It is also great news for Darwin Airline, which will
see increased investment, greater sales and marketing
opportunities, and the chance to benefit from Etihad Airways’
Mr Hogan said the new approach could be
extended to other markets over time.
“This new model is one
that can bring the Etihad badge of quality to air travellers
around the world,” he said. “In just a decade, we have established
the Etihad brand as one of the most recognised and most highly
regarded in aviation. This model offers a new direction for that
brand in future.”
Darwin Airline is headquartered in Lugano,
Switzerland, with its major hub in Geneva. It currently offers
scheduled flights to 21 destinations in Europe using a fleet of 10
50-seat Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft.
Subject to regulatory
approvals, Etihad Airways will invest in Darwin Airline through
the acquisition of 33.3% of an enlarged share capital.
Darwin Airline, which will continue to focus on secondary markets,
will become the seventh member of the Etihad Airways equity
airline alliance, the fourth partner in Europe, and the first to
operate using a new sub-brand called ‘Etihad Regional’.
investment will give Etihad Airways access to regional markets in
Europe, and enable a major expansion of Darwin Airline’s
The new ‘Etihad Regional’ logo will be
displayed prominently on each side of the fuselage of the Darwin
Airline aircraft, while the rear of the plane will carry the words
“Operated by Darwin Airline”, and the Darwin Airline’s present
logo, as well as continuing to display the Swiss flag. All
flights will continue to be operated under the Darwin Airline
By mid-2014, Darwin Airline will add 21
new routes and 18 new destinations. Its network will then include
six European gateways served by Etihad Airways – Geneva,
Amsterdam, Paris, Düsseldorf, Belgrade and, commencing in June,
Darwin Airline will be able to connect to the
network of airberlin, Etihad Airways’ equity partner, through new
and existing routes to Berlin, Düsseldorf and Zurich. Berlin and
Düsseldorf provide excellent connections to the US with airberlin.
Darwin Airline will also be able to connect to the network
of Air Serbia, through its hub at Belgrade.
regulatory approval, Etihad Airways, airberlin and Air Serbia will
codeshare on Darwin Airline routes, while Darwin Airline will
codeshare on Etihad Airways, airberlin and Air Serbia flights from
a range of European gateways. This will provide deeper access to
Europe for the three larger carriers and significant new
international connectivity and feeder traffic for Darwin Airline.
Maurizio Merlo, Chief Executive Officer of Darwin Airline,
believes the Etihad Airways partnership will enable Darwin Airline to build upon its success to date and enjoy significant growth,
not only by providing a larger network for customers within Europe
but also greater access to Europe for travellers from around the
He said: “We have built a solid position in regional
markets across Europe and through this partnership we can add
another major dimension, enabling our customers to access the
global network of destinations offered by Etihad Airways, while
providing fresh options for overseas visitors to travel through
Europe on our flights. This arrangement is new and
exciting for both airlines and represents fresh thinking in our
industry. It also demonstrates clearly the strategy of thinking
globally and acting locally to benefit the customers of both
Darwin Airline’s expanded network, to be
implemented in stages from April 2014, will provide significant
new opportunities for travellers to fly between major regional centres in Europe and the global network of Etihad Airways, via
its hub in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE.
In April 2014,
Darwin Airline will launch nine new routes, from Dusseldorf to
Berlin, Cambridge and London City; from Berlin to Poznan and
Wroclaw; from Geneva to Toulouse; from Zurich to Leipzig; and from
Rome to Tirana and Zagreb.
In May 2014, it will start
flights from from Zurich to Geneva, Florence and Turin; and from
Geneva to Belgrade.
In June 2014, it will launch flights
from Zurich to Linz, Graz, Verona and Lyon; and from Geneva to
Bordeaux, Marseille, Nantes and Verona.
to network and efficiency benefits, Darwin Airline will adopt the
Etihad Guest loyalty program.
Etihad Airways’ minority
shareholdings include 29% of airberlin, 40% of Air
Seychelles, 19.9% of Virgin Australia and 3% of Aer Lingus. Etihad Airways has also received regulatory approval
to acquire 24% of India’s Jet Airways, and from January
2014, will acquire 49% of Air Serbia.
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