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Moving from Kidman to Kaif, Etihad looks east

Katrina Kaif for Etihad Etihad
Bollywood star Katrina Kaif is the newest ambassador for UAE national carrier Etihad
  • Bollywood’s Katrina Kaif is new Etihad ambassador
  • Part of its ‘commitment to India’
  • UAE wants an extra 50,000 seats to India weekly

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, has appointed Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif as its new brand ambassador, showing the Abu Dhabi carrier’s increased focus on the fast-growing eastern markets.

The association was unveiled through a series of videos showcased on social channels.

Amina Taher, vice-president of brand, marketing and sponsorship at Etihad Airways, said while Kaif has “global recognition”, the new partnership is part of the Gulf carrier’s “commitment to India”.

Etihad Airways appointed Australian Hollywood actress Nicola Kidman as a brand ambassador in 2015.

Linus Bauer, founder of Bauer Aviation Advisory, said the choice of Kaif “indeed signals a strategic shift for Etihad Airways towards markets in Asia and beyond.” 

The bulk of India’s international air traffic is carried by Gulf airlines but the Indian government wants to recapture traffic lost to foreign carriers and is pushing airlines to order more widebody planes to meet demand.

Air India placed an order for 470 jets in February as it seeks to reclaim some of this international business.

For its part, the UAE is urging the Indian authorities to increase the maximum number of seats between the two countries by 50,000 a week, from about 65,000.

Figures from the International Air Transport Association showed that total global air traffic in July 2023 rose 26.2 percent year on year and is operating at 95.6 percent of pre-Covid levels.

Middle Eastern airlines posted a 22.6 percent year on year increase in July traffic, and load factor – the measure of available seating capacity that has been filled – climbed 0.3 percentage points to 82.6 percent.

In comparison, Asia-Pacific airlines recorded a 105.8 percent year-on-year increase in July and the load factor increased by 3.9 percentage points to 84.5 percent.