Etihad Airways – the national carrier of the UAE – is celebrating two decades of flights between London and Abu Dhabi.

The airline’s first service to Heathrow Airport using an Airbus A340 landed on 28 March 2004, heralding the start of thrice-weekly flights between London and Abu Dhabi and establishing a sought-after route.

Etihad now operates four daily flights between London and Abu Dhabi using a combination of Airbus A380s, which feature the Residence suite, and Boeing 787s.

Jeremy Pollock, Etihad Airways Country Manager UK and Ireland, said: “Introducing flights from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi was a key part of the airline’s strategy following the carrier’s launch in 2003.

“To celebrate 20 years since our inaugural flight is a fantastic achievement for everyone connected with Etihad Airways – especially our dedicated workforce across the UK and Ireland.

“Etihad now operates four daily flights from London, highlighting the strong demand among UK-based customers to explore Abu Dhabi and the Middle East following a flight travelling in style and comfort, looked after by our excellent, award-winning cabin crew.”

Henry Naya, Etihad Airways Airport Manager London Heathrow, joined Etihad just before flights to London began. He recalls the excitement surrounding the airline’s first flight into Heathrow. It touched down at Etihad’s former home in Heathrow’s Terminal 3, with the founder Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan and a range of dignitaries on board to celebrate the start of the new route.

He said: “We were in our infancy at that point, operating A340s. Everything was new, but we also realised we were onto something special and it was very exciting.

“Other airlines around the Gulf were starting to take off and we could feel we were the next one. There was so much energy around the launch and we ran on adrenalin for that first year.

“I’m not surprised to be here 20 years later because we are ahead of the curve again and looking forward to the next challenges.”

After starting off at Terminal 3 in 2004, Etihad moved to its present home in Terminal 4 five years later in 2009. Frequencies increased in line with growing customer demand prior to Etihad introducing the Airbus A380.

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