The slump international travel is having to contend with these days isn’t preventing Etihad Airways from boosting its Toronto-Abu Dhabi service, with the carrier reporting now stable load factors on the route that it’s confident will increase.
Vincent Frascogna, the airline’s vice president for the Americas, notes Etihad is now serving over 60 destinations on different continents, among them the Ontario capital.
“From the second half of August, Etihad Airways will increase non-stop flights from Toronto to Abu Dhabi to five times per week,” he reports. “As Canada is an important destination for our guests and we are fully committed to this market, we have decided to increase our service to six days per week from September 2020. Our travel trade partners can get up-to-date- information on schedule and route updates by visiting https://www.etihadhub.com/en-ae/.”
Pre-COVID, Etihad was operating five weekly non-stop flights from Toronto to Abu Dhabi, with Frascogna saying that while the airline isn’t yet at pre-COVID levels, “load factors on our Toronto route remain stable and we are optimistic of further recovery, hence our intent to increase to six weekly flights from September 2020.”
Etihad’s network now sees it flying from Abu Dhabi to points in Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.Some of those departing from Toronto are bound for the United Arab Emirates, while others continue with Etihad to other destinations.
Frascogna says Etihad promotes the United Arab Emirates as both a leisure and business destination, citing a large amount of corporate travel between North America and both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
“The beauty of the UAE is its geographic location, allowing one-stop travel to and from almost any major city in the world,” Frascogna says. “Therefore, it’s not uncommon for business travelers to spend a few days in the UAE and then leapfrog to destinations in Asia to continue their business trip. Similarly, with the leisure market, we find our guests from North America love to spend a few days in Abu Dhabi to soak up the sun and visit our cultural and heritage sites, and then continue their journey to such destinations as the Maldives, the Seychelles and India.”
Etihad is well aware of concerns many have about international travel these days, with Frascogna saying the safety and wellness of its guests and employees will always be its “paramount concern and top priority.
“The UAE government has recently introduced a mandatory requirement for all passengers traveling to the UAE to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test before they check-in for their flight,” Franscogna reports.. “This requirement is for all passengers, regardless of whether their final destination is the UAE or if they are in transit. The test can be carried out in the United Arab Emirates at any government-accredited medical facility and results are valid a maximum of 96 hours between receiving the results and the time of checking in.
“In addition, we’re taking extra steps to make sure guests feel safe and well when they travel with our airline. We launched our Etihad Wellness campaign focusing on all elements of the operation and customer journey. Etihad Wellness is being championed by the introduction of specially trained Wellness Ambassadors, a first in the industry, who will provide essential travel health information and care so guests can fly with greater peace of mind. In partnership with Abu Dhabi Airports (ADAC), Wellness Ambassadors ensure the same levels of care and support are provided at every point of the customer journey through the airport, from check-in to security, immigration, the retail areas, lounges, boarding, and inflight so that guests can fly with added comfort, security and confidence. So far, the feedback has been really positive and we’re very proud of this initiative. For Etihad, it’s not just a checkbox exercise, ultimately we wanted to take a holistic look at the concept of wellness and validate it by a range of thoughtful proof points across the experience journey. Guests can find more information about our wellness program at https://www.etihad.com/en-ae/fly-etihad/health-and-wellness.”
“Since the introduction of the Etihad Wellness Program, we have seen a greater number of booking inquiries. While there is still uncertainty related to travel, the measures we have taken as an airline, as well as the new PCR test requirement from the UAE government, continue to support an improved level of consumer confidence.”
Frascogna also reports body temperature screening is carried out prior to boarding an Etihad Airways flight. Any guest experiencing symptoms such as fever, fatigue, dry cough, or shortness of breath will be unable to travel and referred for further examination by the relevant local health authorities. The airline is also applying distancing measures on flights, including spacing between seats on the majority of services.
As well, guests traveling on Etihad Airways flights are required to wear a face mask throughout their journey, and the cockpit crew wears surgical face masks and disposable gloves at all times to ensure maximum safety. Should a guest feel unwell during the flight, an onboard quarantine zone will be created by blocking off a number of rows at the rear of the aircraft wherever possible, and medical authorities advised ahead of arrival at the destination.
Meanwhile, Etihad is supporting Abu Dhabi and its services with the introduction of a trade program called the Etihad Academy, “where agents can learn everything to help guests get their journey off to a flying start, from booking extra baggage to reserving the perfect spot on board. Here you can also learn more about our home, Abu Dhabi, and explore the unique activities and experiences that our vibrant city has to offer. https://www.etihadhub.com/en-ae/academy,” Franscogna reports.