The memorandum of understanding was signed by Hessa Tahlak, Assistant Undersecretary of Social Development(1st left) Mohammad Al Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer, Etihad Aviation Group(centre) and Brayan Thompson, CEO Abu Dhabi Airports at the Etihad Airways Innovation Centre in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A newly launched programme for Emirati citizens aged 60 and over was signed in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Community Development and Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, with the initiative set to provide senior citizens with a range of travel benefits and discounts in a first of its kind for the region.

Under the new initiative — the Etihad Senior Emiratis Basma Programme — members will be able to access discounted flight tickets, 25 per cent bonus guest miles, priority check-in and boarding at Abu Dhabi International Airport, additional baggage allowance and a 10 per cent discount at Abu Dhabi Duty Free. Members will also automatically receive the silver status with Etihad Guest, the airline’s official loyalty programme.

“This initiative enhances the quality of future life and enriches social communication for senior Emiratis. The national policy for senior citizens of the UAE is based on partnerships with key entities offering services to this community,” said Hessa Bint Eisa Bu Humaid, Minister of Community Development, during the launch of the new programme.

Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

“The MoU with Etihad Airways is a result of continuous efforts, partnership and integration with different public and private sectors in order to disseminate community culture and achieve welfare, happiness and positivity among all categories of the community. The national policy for senior Emiratis aims to raise their quality of life and to provide them with exclusive benefits and discounts,” she added.

Hessa Tahlak, assistant undersecretary for the Ministry of Community Development said the programme wants to encourage senior citizens to fly more.

“It will encourage the elderly to travel more in addition to having an active lifestyle. We want to encourage them to travel and to enjoy their lives. Many of them have worked and served the community and country for a long time in jobs that were not easy.

“This is the right time for them to enjoy life and [through this programme] this is one of the opportunities for them to travel more,” she added.

Tahlak also said the new programme aimed to add a new dimension to corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects that go beyond donations and sponsorships.

“It encourages the private sector to get engaged more [with the community]. CSR is not about only paying cash or sponsoring events, we want to change the stereotype about CSR and engage the private sector to [come up] with more and more strategic collaborations and initiatives for the community.”

Tony Douglas, chief executive officer at Etihad Aviation Group, said the group was happy to take the lead in creating a tailor-made package for senior citizens.

“Following in the footsteps of our country’s great leadership, Etihad Airways truly values the contribution of the UAE’s senior citizens to our society. It is a great privilege for Etihad to give back to this community with an exclusive and tailored package of benefits.

“It is with great pride that Etihad is the first airline in the region to offer such benefits, which will be expanded over the coming years,” he added.