Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, this week commenced daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is the airline’s first destination in Scotland, and its third in the UK, alongside a triple-daily service to London Heathrow and double-daily flights to Manchester.
The new flight is operated by a two-class Airbus A330-200 aircraft, with 22 seats in Business Class and 240 in Economy Class. It will connect seamlessly to destinations in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and Indian Sub-Continent.
Peter Baumgartner, Chief Commercial Officer for Etihad Airways, said: “Scotland is the natural next step on our growth trajectory in the UK, with strong tourism and business traffic in both directions. We have been impressed by the welcome we have received from Edinburgh Airport and from the Scottish tourism industry. Many local stakeholders have played a part in attracting us to the city and welcoming us here, and we’re confident this service will be a great success.
“It’s not all about Edinburgh either, as we know there’s a strong demand across the central belt and further afield, not least from Aberdeen-based business travellers, for long-haul services. Abu Dhabi is a growing tourism and trade destination in itself with leisure attractions including world-class beach and desert resorts, Ferrari World, our Championship golf courses and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opening in a few months’ time, coupled with year-round sunshine, which makes our home an exciting option for Scottish holiday-makers.
“As the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is also an important business and financial hub across many industry sectors. With more than 110 direct destinations – and hundreds more through our partners – we can connect Scottish travellers wherever they need to go, for business or for leisure. Additionally, for Scottish trade and tourism, we will be able to bring in leisure and business visitors from many of these destinations.”
From a business and trade perspective, the UAE is already a primary trade partner for Scotland in the Middle East region. According to figures released at the end of 2014 by the UK’s Office for National Statistics, bilateral trade between the UAE and UK reached more than £12.36 billion in 2013.
For leisure customers, Edinburgh is a significant tourist draw. The city is the UK’s largest tourism market outside London, with more than one million arrivals from overseas each year.
Significantly, Edinburgh is the second most popular UK city for Australians, 8 per cent of whom have Scottish ancestry. Etihad Airways currently connects directly to Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Melbourne and onward to around 40 further destinations across Australia, through the partnership with Virgin Australia.
Scottish Enterprise figures show that the Middle East is the second largest international market for Scottish oil and gas exports, valued at £2 billion, so areas across Scotland such as Aberdeen will be a target for the new service. The aircraft will offer a 168-tonne cargo capacity per week in both directions, with oil and gas equipment expected to be transported to destinations served by the airline’s cargo division in Australia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and regions in Africa.
The cargo service also supports Edinburgh’s position as the fourth largest finance centre in Europe and a global hub for scientific research, food and drink, oil and gas, and chemical industries. Food exports from Scotland were worth a record £1.1 billion in 2014, with a surge in fish and seafood sales for markets in Asia such as China and Hong Kong, served by Etihad Airways.