Etihad Airways Vice President for the Subcontinent, Neerja Bhatia is in Kathmandu this week to honour four Nepalis on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Nepali Times asked her about the awards.
Nepali Times: Etihad Airways recently marked 15 years of service to the Subcontinent. How has the journey been so far?
It has been incredible. Etihad launched daily flights between the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, and India in September 2004, which quickly grew to 12 destinations across the Subcontinent including launching flights to Nepal in 2007. Since then we have flown over 1.5 million passengers between Kathmandu and Abu Dhabi.
In Nepal, we recently introduced our newly retrofitted A320 with streaming, improved legroom and new dining menus to this route. The increased capacity provides business and leisure travellers with convenient timings to travel between Kathmandu and Abu Dhabi and seamless connections across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The new Midfield terminal in Abu Dhabi will have 65 aerobridges, and the Abu Dhabi Airports Company is conducting tests on major elements of the facility.
What are the advantages of having US immigration clearance in Abu Dhabi itself for transit passengers from Kathmandu?
For guests from Kathmandu, New York, Chicago and Washington are amongst the top destinations in the USA, with New York ranking the highest. One of the key drivers for this is the US Pre-Clearance facility offered by Etihad. Our guests are able to pre-clear U.S. Immigration and Customs at Abu Dhabi International Airport before boarding their US-bound flights.
The US preclearance has been extremely popular with air travellers, particularly those from the Subcontinent and provides Etihad guests the unique opportunity to pass through all required checks including US customs, immigration and security conveniently before they board their flight, enabling them to avoid queues on arrival.
The US preclearance means baggage security screening meets United States TSA security standards, allowing travellers connecting on to US domestic flights to have their baggage checked from Abu Dhabi to their final destination.
Etihad is using biofuel on its ‘Greenliner’. Can this be realistically upscaled?
Yes, definitely – that is the objective of the program. We launched the first-of-its-kind ‘eco partnership’ known as the Greenliner programme in partnership with Boeing in November. The specially-themed flagship Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner and other aircraft in the 787 fleet will be used to test products, procedures and initiatives designed to reduce carbon emissions.
You are in Kathmandu to mark International Women’s Day by awarding Nepali women and Etihad’s own Nepal manager is a woman. What are some other gender milestones in your carrier?
Yes, our entire senior management team in India are women, including myself. Head of Marketing for the Subcontinent is Pooja Sharma, Cargo and Logistics Commercial Director is Latha Narayan, and the Etihad Regional Airport Manager for the entire Subcontinent and Africa is Shermeen Kajeer.
Etihad is committed to fostering a culture of inclusion and to establishing and supporting a workplace where all 20,369 Etihad Aviation Group employees, from over 150 countries, are valued, respected and supported. Emphasis is placed on supporting diverse talent to maximise engagement, contribution and advancement as well as creating targeted development programmes to accelerate the advancement of women. Today, 6,770 of the employees at Etihad Aviation Group are women.