Etihad Airways has launched non-stop flights between Abu Dhabi and Milan.

The three times a week service is operated with an Airbus A330-200 aircraft, offering a cargo capacity of 14 tons in each direction.

Passenger flights will complement Etihad Crystal Cargo’s existing freighter service to Italy’s financial, industrial and fashion center, which was launched in May 2005.

According to recent figures UAE-Italian trade amounted to AED17 billion in 2006, an increase of 28% over the previous year. Furthermore, Italian exports to the UAE, in the period of January to April 2007, stood at AED 6.3 billion which is an increase of 30% over the same period in 2006.

Des Vertannes, executive vice president cargo, Etihad Airways, said: ‘Italy is an extremely vital market and has always generated enormous interest from the network. The additional belly-hold capacity enables us to optimize the cargo capacities offered to and from Europe. We will look into interline and trucking services throughout Italy, and take advantage of Europe’s third largest air cargo market.’

Exports commodities are precision machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals and electric goods, but the country’s more famous exports are in the fields of food, clothing, and “Luxury vehicles” luxury vehicles.

Vipul Bhalla, Etihad’s manager cargo sales worldwide, said: ‘The launch of passenger services coincides with the appointment of James Gilliard as our regional cargo sales manager and together with Globe Air Cargo s.r.l., our new general sales agent for Italy, he will look into strategies to expand further our market share in this important European market.’

James was recently appointed as regional cargo sales manager United Kingdom & Ireland, Europe and Americas.

Globe Air Cargo s.r.l. has been awarded the gsa contract for Italy from 1 October, replacing Aircargo Logistics International, Ltd.

The freighter ramp handling is taken care of by SEA Handling and Malpensa Logistic Europa (MLE) looks after the cargo warehouse handling.

Etihad flight EY081 operates on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, departing Abu Dhabi at 2.25am and arriving in Milan at 7.05am. The return service, EY088 departs Milan on the same day at 12.45pm, arriving in Abu Dhabi at 8.55pm. All times are local.