Etihad’s First-class lounge which was launched yesterday. It features a restaurant, fitness room, cigar lounge, spa, salon, TV room, prayer room and children’s play area. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Etihad Airways will focus on growth as it tries to expand its fleet and network, the new chief executive of the airline, Peter Baumgartner, said in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

“We have still around 200 aircraft on order that will join our fleet in the next decade, so our network will further expand as well as our fleet. It will be a story of growth and delivering excellence,” said Baumgartner, who took over as the CEO of Eithad Airways earlier this month, from James Hogan, who was promoted to Group president and CEO under a new management structure announced on May 8.

Baumgartner said India is a major market for the airline to grow into. “We have a fantastic opportunity with our partnership with Jet Airways which gives us access into India. It provides Jet Airways access to our global network from Abu Dhabi. We seriously take the opportunity in India. It’s all happening there.”

Asked if the airline had plans to connect more cities in India, he said they will always be considering opportunities and options. “We have a dense network together with Jet Airways today. We are always considering our options and opportunities in India.”

Etihad Airways flies to 15 destinations in India including four in partnership with Jet Airways. The airline recently launched Airbus A380 to India’s commercial hub, Mumbai.

On the competition between the airline companies, Baumgartner said they “embrace and appreciate competition”.

“We will never shy of facing competition. That’s good for the industry and good for the consumers. And it keeps the industry and players on toes to make sure that we continue to innovate.”

He, however, refused to comment on the spat between the US and Gulf carriers over the issue of subsidies and unfair competition.

New lounge

Baumgartner was speaking to Gulf News at the launch of Etihad Airways’ new First Class lounge and spa at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The lounge features 16 zones with a restaurant, showcase bar, fitness room, cigar lounge, spa, salon, TV room, prayer room and children’s play area for guests to relax before they board their flight.

The new facility adds to the airline’s expanding collection of 14 premium lounges including those recently launched in New York and Melbourne in addition to premium lounges in Abu Dhabi (Terminals 1 and 3), Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Dublin, Paris, Washington DC and Sydney.

A new First and Business Class Lounge at Los Angeles airport will follow in the coming months, Etihad said.

With its base in Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways plans to serve 117 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and Americas. The airline has a fleet of 122 Airbus and Boeing aircraft with 204 aircraft on firm order.