James Hogan Image Credit: Courtesy: Etihad

Madrid: The chief of Etihad Airways strongly supported the presence of the airline in the European market and said that airlines should respect their business model as they respect their approach to doing business.

James Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Etihad Airways was speaking in Madrid over the launch of their direct service between Abu Dhabi and the capital of Spain.

“We respect European airlines and they should respect our business model too. We are good for Europe as Europe is good to us,” said Hogan.

“We are running a new business with a clean sheet of paper. When we started in Abu Dhabi, we had to start from scratch. We had to employ people, find engineers and build our facilities.”

The comments come in reference to objections raised by some airlines in Europe and the US that Etihad Airways is benefiting from subsidies and cheap fuel.

Hogan recently met the European Commission Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, to highlight the benefits which the airline delivers to European consumers, outline the multibillion euro contribution that it makes to European economies, and reinforce the risks associated with rising protectionist sentiment.

He said aviation was a global industry, not a regional business, and that any moves to impede foreign carrier access and limit competition would not just damage Etihad and its European partners, but would also reverberate throughout the air transport industry, and potentially undermine international confidence in Europe’s commitment to global trade and investment.

Etihad is making increasing inroads into Europe, partly through equity investments in Air Berlin, Air Serbia, Aer Lingus and Alitalia.

On the launch of the new service to Madrid, Hogan said it gives Spanish business and leisure travellers greater access to the UAE with a total of 2,096 weekly seats on offer.

“It also provides convenient two-way connections via our Abu Dhabi hub to important markets on Etihad Airways’ strong global network.”

The Madrid service is operated four times per week by an Airbus A330-200 aircraft with a total of 262 seats in a two-class configuration: 22 business class and 240 economy class.

Travellers can now fly from Madrid, with one stop in Abu Dhabi and connect conveniently onto 30 destinations across the Gulf region, Africa, Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia, through Etihad Airways and its partner airlines, Etihad said.

Currently around 100 Spanish companies operate and more than 12,000 Spanish nationals live and work in the UAE and these numbers are growing.

“The UAE is Spain’s largest trade partner across the Gulf region, with trade volumes almost doubling in the last five years from 1 billion euros in 2009 to 1.9 billion euros in 2014,” Hogan said.

The event was attended by the UAE Ambassador to Spain, Dr Hissa Abdulla Ahmad Al Otaiba.