Etihad Airways is set to rapidly expand its operations between Abu Dhabi and Beirut following a relaxation of travel restrictions between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Lebanon. The carrier is due to upgrade its existing daily Airbus A321 service to a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from October 27, representing a major increase in passenger and freight capacity.
The step up from a narrowbody to widebody type follows an announcement by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the immediate removal of a travel ban to Lebanon for UAE citizens. The lifting of the restrictions – which have been in place since Febuary 2016 – is expected “to spur a significant increase in demand” for travel between the two capitals according to the carrier.
Robin Kamark, chief commercial officer of the Etihad Aviation Group commented: “Lebanon is a critically important market for the UAE and for its national airline, Etihad Airways. When Etihad was launched in November 2003, Beirut was our first very first scheduled destination. Following the announcement that travel restrictions between these markets will be lifted, we moved quickly to increase our capacity to meet an expected increase in passenger and cargo demand, and to allocate our newest aircraft and product to the route.”
Etihad flights EY535 and EY538 are scheduled to make the leap to the Dreamliner, with the examples configured in a two-class setup. The jets can accomodate 299 passengers in a mix of 28 Business Studios and 271 in economy.