DUBAI 2013: Etihad buys into Darwin which rebrands as Etihad Regional

Etihad Airways has announced what it calls a “step-change in global aviation”, with the launch of its first branded regional operation, after taking a 33.3% stake in Swiss carrier Darwin Airline, which 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 partners.

On 1 June 2014, Etihad Airways will launch daily services 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, explained, “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,” noted Hogan. “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’ global network.”

Hogan added that 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 declared. “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, based in Lugano, Switzerland, with its major hub in Geneva, currently offers scheduled flights to 21 destinations in Europe using a 10 aircraft fleet of Saab 2000s.

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 the new sub-brand, Etihad Regional.

The 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 Darwin Airline’s present logo, as well as continuing to proudly display the Swiss flag. All flights will continue to be operated under the Darwin Airline designator code.

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 Zurich.

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.

Subject to 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.

Maurizio Merlo, chief executive officer of Darwin Airline, believes the Etihad Airways partnership will enable Darwin to build on 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 world.

“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,” Merlo commented. “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 companies.”

Darwin Airline’s expanded network, to be implemented in stages from April 2014, will include a number of 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. Then in May 2014, the airline will begin flights from Zurich to Geneva, Florence and Turin; and from Geneva to Belgrade. Finally, in June 2014, it will launch flights from Zurich to Linz, Graz, Verona and Lyon; and from Geneva to Bordeaux, Marseille, Nantes and Verona.

In addition to network and efficiency benefits, Darwin Airline will adopt the Etihad Guest loyalty programme.

Photo shows (l-r) James Rigney, Etihad Airways’ chief financial officer; Maurizio Merlo, chief executive officer of Darwin Airline; James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ president and chief executive officer; and Emilio Martinenghi, president of Darwin Airline, celebrating the launch of Etihad Regional at the Dubai Air Show 2013.

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