Etihad is making big changes to its London schedules. With little more than a month's notice the Abu-Dhabi based carrier has decided to ditch its daily Gatwick B777 service on March 24 in favour of extra flights out of Heathrow.
A revised double-daily service from Heathrow will start on March 25. Etihad's existing evening departure is unchanged but the erratically timed afternoon service EY12 (it departed at different times during the week) now leaves at a standardised 1305 giving an Abu Dhabi arrival at 2315.
Inbound service EY11 will now depart Abu Dhabi at 0255 to arrive in Heathrow at 0740 (previously this flight departed the Gulf in the morning, reaching Heathrow around 1300).
Both timings are excellent for passengers making connections for domestic and international services. Etihad is understood to have secured these 'slots' times from Bmi. Officially, the carrier will not confirm or deny this rumour but it seems plausible seeing as Bmi places its flight code on all Etihad flights to and from the UK.
But why scrap Gatwick? It seems that Etihad's service to the capital's second airport wasn't generating enough cash. Moreover the B777 was too large for the number of available passengers. A spokesperson for Etihad explained that the B777 is "being transferred to meet demand elsewhere on the network." The simplified timings at Heathrow "will benefit passenger connectivity at our Abu Dhabi hub" says the spokesperson.
It means that Etihad's London-Abu Dhabi-Sydney schedules will be dramatically improved when flights start on March 26. When Business Traveller covered the Sydney service (see Online News, January 11) there was no easy connection back to London from Sydney. But this will change now that the Heathrow flights have been retimed.
It means that on the outward leg to Sydney there's a 2 hour, 40 min transfer in Abu Dhabi along with a 1 hour 45 min layover on the return.
Next August, Etihad will expand flights to Johannesburg by stepping up its current twice a week service to a daily frequency.
It means it will become a bigger player in the busy Europe-South Africa market which Gulf rival Emirates and Qatar Airways now exploit with keen pricing.
Etihad's EY600 departs Abu Dhabi at 0120 reaching Johannesburg at 0820. The return EY601 leaves at 1045 to land in Abu Dhabi at 2050.
Connecting times in Abu Dhabi from Heathrow are excellent (125 mins) on the way out. But the return requires a six hour layover.
For more information go to etihadairways.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter