Etihad president and CEO James Hogan said, “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 wider range of European towns and cities on Etihad-branded aircraft, through Abu Dhabi to our destinations worldwide. This 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.”
Darwin Airline has its headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland, and its hub in Geneva. It currently offers regular flights to 21 destinations in Europe and operates a fleet of ten 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprops. Subject to regulatory approval, Etihad Airways will acquire a 33.3% stake in Darwin Airline, which will continue to concentrate on secondary markets and become the seventh member of the Etihad Airways equity air alliance, its fourth partner in Europe and the first to fly under the new “Etihad Regional” sub-brand.
The new Etihad Regional logo will be displayed prominently on each side of the fuselage of Darwin Airline aircraft; the words “Operated by Darwin Airline” and the carrier’s present logo will appear towards the rear of the planes, which will also proudly continue to display the Swiss flag.
All flights will continue to be operated under the Darwin Airline designator code. By mid-2014, Darwin Airline will have added 21 new routes and 16 new destinations. In April 2014, it will launch nine new routes, including Geneva – Belgrade. In May 2014, it will commence flights from Geneva to Marseille, Nantes, Toulouse and Bordeaux. In June 2014, it will start flying Zurich – Geneva and Geneva – Verona.
Maurizio Merlo, Darwin Airline CEO, believes the Etihad Airways partnership will enable Darwin Airline 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. In addition to enjoying network and efficiency benefits, Darwin Airline will adopt the Etihad Guest and airberlin topbonus loyalty programmes, allowing travellers to earn or exchange points from all three companies.