North Texas travelers will have a new Middle East destination next year.On Thursday, Etihad Airways announced that it will launch nonstop service between Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and Abu Dhabi in about a year. The airline said it will have three flights a week starting Dec. 3, 2014, to connect DFW to its headquarters hub.Etihad, known for its luxury customer service, is the third Persian Gulf carrier to add service to DFW. Emirates Airlines started service to Dubai in February 2012, while Qatar Airways announced this month that it will launch service to Doha starting in June.Abu Dhabi and Dubai are part of the United Arab Emirates.Geert Boven, Etihad’s senior vice president of the Americas, said the company added DFW because of its relationship with American Airlines. Etihad and American have interlining agreements, which allow carriers to build itineraries using flights on both airlines, and code sharing, which allows them to share the same flight under their own flight codes, or numbers.“The business opportunities between the Texas region [and Abu Dhabi], in oil and gas but also construction companies and financial services, those things are important” to our decision, Boven said. “It’s the opportunity to be able to connect major markets.”Etihad, which recently increased its presence in India with an investment in Jet Airways, plans to use DFW to connect customers to Asia and Australia through its Abu Dhabi hub, Boven said.Etihad said it will use a Boeing 777-200LR on the DFW route. The aircraft has eight first-class suites, 40 business-class flatbed seats and 189 economy seats. For first-class and business travelers, the airline will offer limousine pickup. It also has a chef on board for first-class customers and offers a nanny for families in economy class.“Etihad Airways has established a reputation for excellence, and we are confident that DFW customers will be eager to take advantage of the new route for travel to the Middle East and beyond,” DFW Airport CEO Sean Donohue said. “This new flight from Etihad Airways demonstrates that the Dallas-Fort Worth region continues to grow as one of the most vital business and tourism centers in the world, and it demonstrates the continuing benefit” of having a world-class airport to help drive international growth.The airport said it expects the new service to generate an additional $90 million in annual economic impact in North Texas. In the past three years, DFW has added 10 airlines and 23 international destinations. Abu Dhabi will be its 58th international destination.The Etihad flight will depart Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from Abu Dhabi at 9:45 a.m. and arrive at DFW at 4:30 p.m. those same days. The return flight will leave DFW at 6:45 p.m. and arrive in Abu Dhabi at 7:50 p.m. the next day. The flight takes 16 hours and 20 minutes.The carrier flies to New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., and it will add service to Los Angeles in June. Last month, Etihad announced a $67 billion order for 87 aircraft from Airbus and 56 from Boeing.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk