The commencement of Etihad's services to Erbil follows the successful launch of the airline's flights to Baghdad in April this year. Image Credit: Supplied picture

Dubai: Etihad Airways will convert up to 10 A320s into all economy-class configurations to meet demand for economy travel on short haul routes, the company said.

The scheme will start with two A320 aircraft that will be reconfigured to carry 42 additional economy passengers. An Etihad A320 aircraft is normally configured to have 162 economy seats Initial destinations to be served by the all-economy class aircraft will be Alexandria, Egypt; Calicut and Thiruvananthapuram, India; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Damascus, Syria and Doha, Qatar.

"Our all economy aircraft will allow us to offer a more competitive product in key point-to-point markets in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Subcontinent, while maintaining the high standards of service we have become known for," Etihad Airways chief executive James Hogan said in a statement yesterday.

Driven by low premium traffic demand on short haul routes, the carrier will launch additional routes within a five-hour radius where it will place its converted aircraft.

Not new

Max Sukkhasantikul, consultant for Commercial Aviation, Aerospace and Defence Practice at Frost & Sullivan said the conversion of aircraft for short haul destinations is not a new phenomenon and would serve the airline well. "It [an all-economy configuration] would provide Etihad with greater market access and higher yield on routes it would not do well with premium service offering," he said.

Alitalia had earlier converted its aircraft into an all-economy service for short haul routes where its premium class "would not have done well anyway," he said.

Positioning itself as a premium carrier, Etihad is adding more value to its service. Known to have one of the best Business Class service among long-haul carriers, it will continue to serve those destinations with multiple classes.

"We have built a strong brand and a robust business, and it is the right time to challenge the way we serve our various markets and segments," Hogan said.