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Virgin Australia partner Etihad Airways begins daily flights to Perth this week, providing another high-quality international option for WA travellers since Qantas all but abandonded the capital and putting 30 destinations within a one-stop reach.
Etihad's inaugural flight EY486 arrived into Perth at 1.10pm today, with the return leg EY487 wheels-up from the WA capital at 3.55pm to arrive in Abu Dhabi at 11.25pm.
Etihad's flights will run on an Airbus A330-200 aircraft with 22 seats in Etihad's Pearl Business Class cabin and 240 in Coral Economy Class.
Etihad joins Gulf competitor and Qantas partner Emirates alongside Qatar Airways in offering direct flights from Perth to the mid-east hubs of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha with fast connections through to the UK and Europe.
Under Etihad's partnership with Virgin Australia travellers will be able to book a single ticket from outlying WA cities to fly into Perth with Virgin and then onwards to the rest of the world with Etihad – earning Velocity frequent flyer points and status credits all the way.
When the construction of the new Domestic Pier at Perth Airport's Terminal 1 is complete, Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia will be located in one terminal for easy connections to Virgin's domestic network plus regional connections in Terminal 2.
Announcing the launch of Perth flights last year, Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan said "Our analysis shows there is a significant business opportunity on the Perth route."
"Our flights are timed to offer travellers the convenience of daily departures and seamless connectivity to our global network over the Abu Dhabi hub."
Hogan also identified a significant new opportunity for revenue growth from the business travel segment, citing that "eighty of the top 300 Australian companies have their headquarters in Perth and many of these have commercial interests in Africa and the Middle East."
"Equally, many UAE businesses have a strong presence in Australia, particularly in the agribusiness, resources and tourism sectors. We anticipate that this will translate to strong demand for our new services."
Etihad intends to upgrade the Perth service to one of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the 2016-2017 period as part of a bullish push into the Australian market which also includes Airbus A380s for Sydney and Melbourne plus a Boeing 787 for Brisbane.
Qatar Airways has also announced plans to fly its new Airbus A350 to Perth in early 2015 as one of the launch routes for the next-generation jetliner, according to airline CEO Akbar Al Baker.
Earlier this year Al Baker told Australian Business Traveller that Perth was chosen both for being an "ultra long-haul route" from Qatar's Doha hub as well as for its importance as Australia's "mineral resources capital."
Emirates was expected to begin Airbus A380 flights to Perth this year but a cooling in the resources market has reportedly put paid to those plans.
However, in a move to woo would-be Qantas passengers and no doubt cruel Etihad's debut, Emirates is offering double status credits or 'tier miles' in its Skywards frequent flyer scheme for flights from Perth – sufficient to provide Skywards Gold status: after just one return trip in business class.
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