The first Etihad Airways plane bound directly for Abu Dhabi took flight from Dulles International Airport on Monday, marking the start of the airline’s daily nonstop service between Washington and the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Washington is the fourth North American city in which Etihad will offer nonstop service — after New York, Chicago and Toronto — a fact that president and chief executive James Hogan said signals rising demand for travel to one of the Middle East’s wealthiest nations.
“When we make our assumptions, we look at three years for a route to break even,” Hogan said in an interview.
“Chicago makes an acceptable contribution. New York makes an acceptable contribution. Toronto makes an acceptable contribution. I’ve got no doubt that Washington will move into that within a three-year period,” he added.
The airline anticipates a balance between business and personal flyers. The Washington region is home to a large international community that travels to visit family and friends, as well as many companies, including government contractors, with offices in the UAE, he said.
But Hogan added that Abu Dhabi may not be a final destination for all Washington flyers. The city is emerging as a hub for travelers headed to Southeast Asia and Africa who might otherwise be funneled through airports across Europe.
“When we put all that into account, that gave us the confidence to launch this service,” Hogan said.
Etihad tallies a total of 30 employees in the Washington region, Hogan said. About half are located in the company’s District office and the rest are stationed at Dulles, where the airline will open a lounge for travelers.
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