09/24/2014

Etihad (Darwin) flights, prices and cancellations

In the TV emission TTC of Monday 22 September the cheap flights (99 francs round trip) to Zurich with Etihad (Darwin) airline.


The TV emission discussed the spectacular growth of the Arab Middle East airlines Emirates, Etihad and Quatar. There was particular attention on the effective take-over of the Lugano-based Darwin airline by Etihad, which is now what is claimed to be a Swiss airline called a company called Etihad Regional (Darwin). This has resulted, amongst other things, in an offer for return flights between Geneva and Zurich for 99 Swiss Francs. This is an attack on the airline Swiss in their home territory, which has caused Swiss not only to review their own pricing, but also to make an official complaint to the Swiss Federal Aviation Authority OFAC, claiming "concurrence déloyale". An article on the web site of the civil aviation news site airinfo.org, dated 21 August 2014, states that Etihad Regional ust modify its relations with the parent airline Etihad if it wishes to continue to be treated as an airline of Switzerland.

An investigation of the flights of Etihad Regional throws up a number of interesting little items, I verified that there is actually an offer, called Promo, which is quoting less than 50 Swiss francs for a flight to or from Zurich. Of course, there are various limitations (no cancellation, no refund, limited baggage,only the next few weeks).

On Tuesdays, this offer seems to be available for four flights each way.  However, yesterday 23 September it seems that the last flight from Zurich to Geneva was simply cancelled. I wonder what happened to those passengers with their 50 franc tickets!

Another fact about Etihad Regional is that they seem to need to operate lots of flights to take empty aircraft to places from where they then want to fly passengers somewhere else. Normally, these flights have a flight number in the 9000 range (in the 5000 range for Swiss) and are not mentioned on the airport  arrivals/departures list. So far this September Etihad Regional has operated 30 such repositioning flights (out of about 750 total flights). In comparison, Swiss have operated only 8 such flights, out of about 1600, and easyJet 30 such flights: like Etihad Regional but out of 2800 flights.

Another curiosity is that sometimes there are flights that are scheduled but (according to the airport list of flights) cancelled. Yesterday the airport list showed cancelled Etihad Regional flights to and from Vannes (a small coastal airport in France, near to Nantes). Despite the stated cancellation, these flights did actually operate. Since Vannes is a tiny airport which does not seem to take any scheduled flights, this is slightly curious!

To the advantage of Etihad Regional is that their aircraft are relatively small turboprops which make very little noise. Also, they don't seem to need to send empty aircraft out of Geneva after 10pm, whereas this month has seen six empty easyJet aircraft depart from Geneva after 10pm. The most recent of these was an Airbus A319 to Milan at 11h40 pm last night. Despite OFAC regulations that say a commercial flight must carry paying passengers, these empty flights are considered as commercial.

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