Etihad Airways will launch daily services to Beijing’s new Daxing International Airport in June despite dwindling demand for routes to China as Covid-19 tightens its grip on the airline industry.
From June, the airline will transfer all its flights to and from Abu Dhabi and Beijing, and its flights to and from Beijing to Nagoya, Japan, to the new $17 billion airport, which launched at the end of 2019.
UAE regulators last month banned all flights to and from China, with the exception of the capital and Etihad, along with just about every other airline in the world, has lost demand for services to Asia.
But Robin Kamark, Etihad’s chief commercial officer, is confident that demand will increase sufficiently by the summer to support the new services, which will be operated by Boeing 787s.
Etihad Airways will be one of the first airlines in the Middle East region to move to Daxing International Airport.
Mr Kamark said that since launching flights to China 12 years ago, Etihad has experienced “huge growth” in the republic’s tourism and aviation markets.
“Whilst the spread of Covid-19 has posed a major challenge for all airlines serving China, with a massive drop in demand on key routes, we remain optimistic that the situation will improve by the summer,” Mr Kamark said.
Located 46km south of Tiananmen Square, Beijing Daxing International Airport will operate at full capacity in 2040, with eight runways and the potential to receive 100 million passengers per year.
It was designed by Zaha Hadid and is the largest single-structure airport terminal and integrated transportation hub in the world.
China is expected to overtake the US as the world’s largest aviation market, according to the International Air Transport Association by the mid-2020s, and to handle some 1.6 billion air travellers a year by 2037.