Etihad Airways’ chief executive James Hogan said on Monday that the United States of America remains a largely untapped market for Etihad Airways and spoke of how the airline’s new Chicago service is set to become an important driver to the airline’s future growth.
Mr Hogan was addressing an audience of senior business executives at the AmCham Abu Dhabi Global Leaders Luncheon, held at the Beach Rotana hotel in Abu Dhabi.
During the speech, Mr Hogan discussed the growing relationship between Abu Dhabi and Chicago and explained how Etihad’s new service will bring significant economic benefits to America’s third largest city.
Mr Hogan said: “It’s the first direct air route between Chicago and the Arabian Gulf. Abu Dhabi sits at the heart of the Arab world but did you also know that within the state of Illinois there is an Arab-American population of nearly a quarter of a million people, with immigrants from Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq and Syria, as well, of course, as from the UAE itself? That in itself marks a great potential customer base.
“But we do not plan to use this service just to bring travellers from Chicago and the American mid-west to Abu Dhabi and the Middle East. Using our hub at Abu Dhabi airport, we will bring thousands of passengers from the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and Asia to Chicago, benefiting the local economy and helping to create good jobs.”
John L. Habib, president of AmCham Abu Dhabi, said: “Chicago is known as ‘The Windy City’ and now that famous wind is bringing one of the world’s fastest growing and progressive airlines directly into O’Hare airport. Etihad is to be congratulated for having the foresight to choose greater Chicago as its hub for expanding westward across the US and for its code-share with American Airlines. The Abu Dhabi-Chicago route will certainly become a favourite of the 400-plus members of AmCham Abu Dhabi. Today we are celebrating a new era of exciting business and tourism opportunities between two thriving regions.”
Mr Hogan also explained how the airline’s presence within the American market has recently been strengthened, following a major code-share agreement with American Airlines. The arrangement extends the two airlines’ global networks by providing easy access between Abu Dhabi and key cities in the US including Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.
He explained: “While many outbound Etihad passengers will visit the great city of Chicago, those who want to travel to other parts of the US will be able to connect through O’Hare airport with our code-share partner American Airlines, which operates hundreds of flights from Chicago to cities throughout North America and beyond, some of which now carry the “EY” code of Etihad.”
Mr Hogan stressed the increasing economic ties and business links between the UAE and America, citing the fact that the UAE is America’s largest export market in the Arab world, generating more than US $11 billion in exports last year. He highlighted the diverse range of 750-plus US companies operating in the UAE as well as the significant recent investments made by UAE-based interests in US companies, including Citibank, AMD, General Electric and MGM.
He also paid tribute to the increasing contribution being made by US institutions to the delivery of high quality educational and health care services within the UAE. He explained how such partnerships will bring Etihad real and tangible benefits: “As the UAE and US continue to depend on each other for long-term success, we expect the rate of bilateral business and partnerships to continue to expand. Thus, creating more demand for travel between the two nations.”
Etihad Airways began flights to the US city of Chicago at the beginning of September. The initial three flights per week service will increase to six flights per week at the beginning of November and then move to a daily service at the beginning of 2010.
Chicago, the third largest city in America and the biggest in the state of Illinois, is Etihad’s second US destination joining its popular daily flight to New York. The launch of the new service has strengthened Etihad’s network in North America, which includes Toronto, and enjoys an average seat factor of more than 80 per cent.
The new service to Chicago’s O’Hare airport increases the airline’s global flight network to 56 cities and follows the launch of flights to Melbourne, Astana, Istanbul, Athens, Larnaca and Cape Town so far during 2009.
Chicago is the third largest US market for air travel to the Middle East and GCC, after New York and Washington DC, and the state of Illinois is home to one of the largest Arab-American communities in the US with an estimated population of more than 240,000 residents.