James Hogan, the CEO of Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said on the 5th, July at a conference in Chengdu that it plans to launch direct flights between Abu Dhabi and Chengdu on December 15, 2011, subject to government approval. If this is realized as schedule, Chengdu will become the airline's second destination in China after Beijing, and its 69th destination worldwide.
Chengdu, known as the hometown of giant panda, is the capital city of Sichuan province, also the largest city in southwestern part of China.
The new route will connect the UAE with the economic center and transportation and communication hub of China's booming southwest region, said James Hogan, the carrier's chief executive officer.
Four non-stop services per week on each Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, Etihad will operate an Airbus A330-200 aircraft in a two-class configuration on the sector – offering 22 business class seats and 240 economy class seats.
It will also provide a new, more convenient gateway into southwest China for business and leisure travelers from Europe and the Middle East, particularly into Tibet. Chengdu is reputed as the hub city for travelers to enter Tibet as the city enjoys the largest number of direct flights to Lhasa per day as well as a train departure each other day, also there are three classical overland tours from Chengdu to Lhasa. The launching of this route will increase tourists to Tibet from Middle East for sure. Previously, people from Middle East can only enter Tibet from Beijing or Kathmandu, neither of them has such advantages that Chengdu enjoys.