Etihad adds San Francisco to growing US network

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Etihad Airways will launch new service to San Francisco International airport in November, as it continues its rapid expansion in the USA.

The daily nonstop between Abu Dhabi and San Francisco will be flown on a three-class 346-seat Boeing 777-300ER leased from Jet Airways from 18 November, says the carrier. Etihad will operate the aircraft with its own crews.

The route is understood to be the first instance where Etihad, which owns a 24% stake in Jet, operates a route with a Jet aircraft.

“San Francisco is another strong addition and provides our first direct link to northern California,” says James Hogan, president and chief executive of Etihad, in a statement. “Given its global prominence as a tourism and business centre, we anticipate strong demand… not only between San Francisco and Abu Dhabi, but onwards to destinations across our network and the networks of our codeshare partners.”

The city is the latest in the gulf carrier’s rapid expansion in the USA. It will serve six cities in the country with the addition of Dallas/Fort Worth (3 December), Los Angeles (1 June) and now San Francisco by the end of 2014, up from just three a year earlier.

Etihad and other gulf carriers have come under fire from Delta Air Lines, and to a lesser extent American Airlines, for their rapid expansion into the USA. The former successfully challenged a proposed codeshare between Etihad and Air Serbia on flights to the USA, and is fighting US Export Import Bank (Ex-Im) widebody aircraft loan guarantees to the gulf carriers.

“We feel at Delta that we, like other US carriers, have become very efficient and able to compete with anybody anywhere in the world on a level playing field,” said Ben Hirst, chief legal officer at the Atlanta-based carrier, in September 2013. “The concerns that we have is that these airlines are state-owned, state-supported and have economic objectives instead of private objectives driving them.”