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Etihad Airways Expanding Business with New Charter Services
On Monday, United Arab Emirates national carrier Etihad Airways announced it is expanding its business to include charter and special flight services. The new venture aims to increase the airline’s cash flow as it continues to struggle through the pandemic, which has already cost Etihad millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
Etihad will begin offering customizable flights that can be passenger-only, cargo-only or a combination of the two. Etihad’s Vice President of Network Planning and Alliances, Alex Featherstone, said, “While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the commercial aviation industry, charter flights provide a convenient alternative to travel, providing customers with the flexibility to choose the departure time, destination and routing.”
Featherstone also explained that the charter services would be included in Etihad’s Wellness program. This means each flight will be met with high health safety standards, including enhanced sanitation and hygiene onboard, complimentary wellness kits for guests, mask requirements for customers and staff and COVID-19 insurance for all passengers.
The global wellness insurance is valid until March 31, 2021 and is included with any Etihad flight booked through the company. If a passenger is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 31 days after traveling with Etihad, regardless of where they are, the airline will cover all medical and quarantine costs. The coverage only applies if the passenger is away from their home country.
The program also introduces the industry’s first Wellness Ambassadors – a specially trained team of employees who enforce COVID-related travel policies and offer advice on traveling safely during the pandemic. This team is available on all Etihad flights and in the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Furthermore, the ambassadors are reachable via live online chat 24/7.
The new flight services come as the airline begins its organizational restructuring. In November, the carrier announced plans to transform into a “mid-sized, full-service carrier concentrating on its fleet of widebody aircraft, with a leaner, flatter and scaleable organizational structure that supports organic growth as the world returns to flying.” The decision came after management realized Etihad’s high-cost operation, like first-class chefs, is a risky business – a decision highlighted by the pandemic.
While the specialized flights will be a new business for Etihad, the carrier has already been providing charter flights on behalf of the UAE throughout the pandemic. This year, the airline has operated over 500 passenger, government and humanitarian charter flights and has carried more than 3.8 tonnes of cargo as part of the country’s national aid program. In addition to the new specialized flights, Etihad also charters for sports teams. Notably, the airline came through for long-time partner Manchester City Futbol Club when the team’s initial flight arrangements were delayed during its travel to the Asia pre-season tour in 2019.
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