Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) national airline which completed its first year of operations in India in December, plans to connect southern Indian cities and Abu Dhabi with direct flights by the year-end.
"India as a booming market is high on our priority list," said R Dougie Douglas, area manager, India and Nepal, during a gathering organised by the airline on Friday evening.
The cities in focus include Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram.
Talking about their plans to venture into the southern Indian market, Charles Phelps-Penry, regional general manager (Asia Pacific) of the airline, said the stations have a lot of potential with passengers regularly heading for the Middle East destinations.
"We are in talks with the Indian government for securing flying rights. We are also planning to enhance the existing flight schedule in India," he said.
There are an estimated four million Indians living in the Middle East.
Etihad Airways currently operates 10 flights from India to Abu Dhabi - seven from Mumbai and three from Delhi each week. The airline also plans to increase its number of flights to the two metros, Phelps-Penry said.
The airline is also in the process of finalising a new tourism initiative to attract Indian travellers to Abu Dhabi. It has tied up with all Indian carriers such as Air-India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines and Air Sahara to link up other cities in India.
Etihad Airways has over the last six months expanded its international network to a number of destinations, including Brussels, Toronto, Johannesburg, Manila, Manchester and Muscat. At present, the airline flies to 25 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, North America Africa and Asia.
The airline, which is adding one destination every month, has placed orders for the purchase of five Boeing 777-300 ER
aircraft. It has also ordered 24 Airbus aircraft - four A340-500s, four A340-600s, 12 A330-200s and four double-decker A380s.