Etihad’s new Brisbane flights seem as much about Singapore as Abu Dhabi and beyond
Etihad’s much anticipated increase in its Brisbane flights to daily from 1 February on the Abu Dhabi run raise a few issues.
One is that the two class A330-200s used on the route will of necessity stop somewhere along the way, and they will continue to do so in Singapore, the home base of Singapore Airlines which is, like Etihad, an alliance partner of Virgin Australia.
This has another consequence, in that if you are using the Etihad service to connect in Abu Dhabi to cities in Europe, you will take hours longer because of the extra stop in Singapore than would have been the case by connecting to the same European cities on Singapore Airlines for a non-stop flight from Singapore.
Alliances are often like this. Untidy. Even when all of the options are on high quality carriers.
On the other hand while the Singapore stop en route to Abu Dhabi could disappear if Etihad deployed airliners like the A340-600 and 777-300ER on the Brisbane route, there are clear commercial attractions in such a stopover, as shown by its larger UAE compatriot Emirates in its use of both Singapore and Bangkok as stops on the way to Dubai on some of its flights using jets that could do the route non-stop.
If Virgin Australia had a 777-300ER to spare for Brisbane-Abu Dhabi it could offer the one-stop to Europe option using a final stage on an Etihad flight.
However this is where the chicken or egg effect comes into play. Until traffic on the Brisbane-Europe market grows, it is unlikely to see airlines investing the type of jets needed to do it one stop.
It’s a situation that Qantas should be able to exploit to its advantage, except that all the signals from Qantas are about reducing its reach.