Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has announced it will start service to Barcelona beginning this November, becoming the airline’s second destination in Spain following service to Madrid.
Etihad will begin operating the route five times a week with its Airbus A330 aircraft before moving to daily service in March of 2019. The new route comes as trade continues to grow between Spain and the U.A.E., with the airline expected to increase service right as the Mobile World Congress is scheduled to begin in Barcelona this upcoming February.
Peter Baumgartner, Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said: “We are now delighted to announce the first direct link between these two important global hubs. We are confident it will prove very popular with UAE and Barcelona-based customers, allowing us to extend our acclaimed inflight service, hospitality and flair to this vibrant Mediterranean city, and to build on the flourishing cultural and commercial ties between the UAE and Spain.”
Etihad’s two top competitors, Emirates and Qatar Airways, both already offer competing service to Barcelona, with Emirates even offering twice-daily service. Qatar meanwhile offers between one and two flights daily, depending on the day of the week.
All three carriers have faced an uphill battle toward profitability, with Etihad losing an estimated $1.87 billion in the 2016 fiscal year. The challenges have mainly been brought on by Etihad’s failed equity investment plan in several airlines, including Air Berlin and Alitalia. With the exit of previous CEO, James Hogan, in the second half of 2017, the airline has been shifting its strategy to continue growing traffic through its hub in Abu Dhabi while cutting investments that were not contributing to the bottom line.
With an estimated population of 1.6 million people, Barcelona has become an increasingly popular destination for domestic and international travelers alike thanks to its architecture, beaches and options for entertainment. Last year, the city was ranked first in the world for the number of association meetings held, barely edging out both Paris and Vienna.
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