Etihad Airways is set to expand further in the Indian market if it gets government approval, according to a senior official from the Abu Dhabi-based airline.

Geert Boven, Etihad’s executive vice president sales and services, said that Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad were all ‘in the airline’s sights’ as the carrier launched flights on May 30 to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and June 2 to Kochi (Cochin).

Etihad held talks with the Indian authorities over new air rights in March, which resulted in the new Kerala routes and will enable Etihad to offer a total of 21 flights per week from Abu Dhabi to India.

Following the conclusion of the talks the airline has been working towards adding more Indian destinations to its expanding flight network that target the major cities in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Des Vertannes, executive vice president cargo, Etihad Airways said: ‘With a population of one billion people and the world’s second fastest growing economy, Indian destinations are high in demand - both passenger and cargo wise. The flights to Trivandrum and Cochin have filled up rapidly in the first few days. We anticipate high load factors on both sectors.’

The UAE is India’s most dominant trading partner in the entire WANA (West Asia North Africa) region, and represents 70 per cent of India’s export to GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) countries. Currently there are 3,300 Indian companies operating in the UAE.

Bilateral trade between the two countries also continues to grow year-on-year and now stands at more than AED 48 billion.

Vipul Bhalla, Manager Cargo Sales world-wide, Etihad Airways, added: ‘Inbound load will consist mainly of personal effects, outbound Etihad Crystal Cargo will transport spices, garments and fresh produces which will expediently connect to other destinations in the Middle East and Europe via Abu Dhabi International Airport.’

The new three flights-per-week service to Thiruvananthapuram and four flights-per-week service to Kochi will join Etihad’s established flights to Mumbai and New Delhi, with flights to the Indian capital going daily from 31 May.

In addition to passenger services between the UAE and India, Etihad Crystal Cargo also operates its A300-600 freighters to Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi.